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Ars: "Thunderbolt should continue to spread in 2013"


Although it seems as Intel's Thunderbolt interconnect technology has been consigned to the realm of expensive ideas that just didn't make it, Ars Technica's Chris Foresman has posted a detailed update on the tech and says that "the groundwork laid in 2012 may slowly start to pay off in 2013."

Apple, of course, was the first computer manufacturer to embrace Thunderbolt. Two things that made early adopters unhappy were the cost of Thunderbolt cables and the non-appearance of promised long-length optical cables. Apple dropped the price on their 2-meter Thunderbolt cable last week, and Corning announced optical cables up to 100 meters long at about the same time. While the long high-speed cables will be pricy, especially at first, it's a move that's sure to make those who need to separate computers, storage and monitors over long distances happy.

Foresman noted that after the excitement of Thunderbolt announcements at CES 2012, this year was "much more sedate." One of the few announcements was for LaCie's 5big Thunderbolt RAID box, scheduled for release early this year. Belkin is finally going to ship the Thunderbolt Express Dock in the first quarter of 2013, and Apple's rumored to have a new Thunderbolt Display waiting in the wings.

Why are things moving so slowly in terms of Thunderbolt adoption? First, Foresman notes that the first generation of Thunderbolt controller chips were quite expensive. Intel introduced new lower-cost controllers in 2012, but apparently Intel has a slow licensing and certification process that's been holding up the works. Intel's director of Thunderbolt Marketing and Planning, Jason Ziller, suggested to Foresman that "licensing to a wider variety of vendors would begin to open up this year."

Apple has added Thunderbolt to the entire Mac lineup (with the exception of the hopefully-to-be-refreshed Mac Pro) and some Windows PC manufacturers are finally adding it as an option. As Foresman notes, "Thunderbolt offers a price-to-performance advantage over competing technologies. And as Thunderbolt expands throughout the next year, that advantage should increase."

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