News that Intel's Light Peak high-speed optical interface technology may be arriving sooner than expected is reviving rumors that Apple may incorporate the new standard on Macs. Light Peak, which can transfer data at twice the speed of USB 3.0, is "now on track to appear in products in the first half of 2011
- and likely earlier in the year than later," according to Brooke Crothers at CNET. Apple's been an active proponent of the technology, and - especially since Steve Jobs made comments dismissing USB 3
- observers are speculating that Apple may be an early adopter of Light Peak.
Intel Labs has been working on the fiber optic cable interface as a single universal replacement for current peripheral bus standards like USB, FireWire, PCI Express, SATA and HDMI. The interface will be capable of transferring 10 gigabits per second full duplex, which is twice the transfer rate of USB 3.0, over cables that can be up to a hundred meters long as opposed to USB 3's three meters. And according to Intel, the standard will support speeds up to a blistering 100Gbps by the end of the decade, which will be significant as industry observers believe optical cables will be the only way to support larger HDTV and 3D displays. Engadget published a claim
last year that Apple actually designed the standard back in 2007 and brought it to Intel; while there was no statement about this from either Apple or Intel, industry sources have disputed
Intel demonstrated the technology at the Intel Developer Forum in 2009, saturating a solid-state RAID array while displaying high-definition video on a large screen, all through a single fiber optic daisy-chain. Observers were amused to note that the computer they used for the demo was a hackintosh
: a caseless test rig running Mac OS X. Whether the story about Apple inventing the technology is true or not, Light Peak has gotten enthusiastic support from Apple. Intel received feedback from Apple which they incorporated into their development efforts.
When asked about USB 3.0 on the Mac, Steve Jobs replied
that "We don't see USB 3 taking off at this time." Interestingly, the Apple CEO went on to justify that statement by saying there was "no support from Intel" for the standard. Given that Intel appears to be pushing ahead with Light Peak as a next-generation standard, and Apple's focus on clean, minimal industrial design, it's not unrealistic to imagine we'll see future MacBooks with a single optical interface to replace USB, FireWire, and HDMI ports.