With licensing and cost issues, can Thunderbolt break out of its niche?

Infinite Loop by Chris Foresman

Intel launched Thunderbolt in February 2011, choosing Apple as its first OEM partner. Almost two years later, the high-speed interconnect is still an expensive, niche connectivity option, despite the fact that it has spread to Windows PCs and numerous vendors have announced Thunderbolt-compatible products. As the standard begins to mature, will the technology begin to break out of its niche?

It's hard to say with absolute certainty, but it appears that the groundwork laid in 2012 may slowly start to pay off in 2013.

Cables, great and small

Unsurprisingly, as the first computer vendor to widely adopt Thunderbolt, Apple was also the first vendor out of the gate with Thunderbolt cables. However, the cables were pricey at $50 each. Some observers were practically apoplectic over the price, while others compared the price to that of other high-speed, bi-directional interconnects which often require much more exotic and expensive hardware.

Other cables eventually hit the market, but prices weren't better than what Apple offered. Semiconductor manufacturer Intersil promised that its next-generation Thunderbolt transceiver chips—a necessary component of Thunderbolt cables—would bring prices down in 2013. The improved transceivers required fewer support chips, could use lower-cost, thinner conductors, and could reduce manufacturing costs by building signal testing right into the chips themselves. read more...

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