"Intel is going to support USB 3.0 in the 2012 client platform. We're going to support Thunderbolt capability. We believe that they're complementary." CNET reported this remark from Kirk Sakaugen, a VP of the Intel Architecture group, in a presentation streamed from the Intel Developer Conference in Beijing. This dual-I/O support will arrive in the first half of 2012 with the rollout of the "Ivy Bridge" processor, which will be the next generation after the "Sandy Bridge" technology currently built into the the newest MacBook Pros.
This is the first time in ten years that Intel has built the most current USB technology into its processors. Currently Intel uses USB 3.0 in a small number of high-end motherboards, sourcing a component from NEC to make it work. USB 3.0 is ten times quicker than USB 2.0, topping out at a theoretical speed of 4.8 Gbps. Thunderbolt, in turn, beats out USB 3.0 easily; it allows transfers of data and DisplayPort video simultaneously at speeds of up to 10 Gbps on one cable.
Although nothing specific has been said about when Intel will integrate Thunderbolt technology, The Inquirer notes that the January launch of "Sandy Bridge" would have been the perfect time for Intel to build USB 3.0 into its silicon. By dragging its heels, the company may be promoting the integration of Thunderbolt. Currently Apple is the only computer maker using Thunderbolt, but AMD as well as Intel have said they will eventually include Thunderbolt support.