Fibre optic Thunderbolt is years away

While Intel has been touting its Thunderbolt high-speed interconnect technology, the beast is actually only at “stage one” with its real potential still years away.

Thunderbolt was supposed to benefit from fibre optic links which really would make it useful, particularly in the face of other developing network technology.

When  Intel and Apple released Thunderbolt, it used copper, with data transfer rates between host devices and external devices of up to 10Gbps. Good, but hardly what we expected from the fibre based Thunderbolt.

PC World  cornered Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group at the Intel Developer Forum and asked when the fibre based Thunderbolt would actually arrive.

Apparently he scratched his head, shuffled his feet and said that it was a way off yet. The problem appears to be that Intel cant make it cheap enough – a common theme at the moment.

Perlmutter said that it was all about how much speed people need versus how much they would be willing to pay for.

Fibre is expensive, and besides, people really do not need those speeds just yet. He said that there is still more room for data transfers to jump on copper.

There is also the possibility that copper will continue to improve, and moving Thunderbolt to fibre can be put off again.

Chipzilla boffins are also developing technology based on silicon photonics that will be able to move data up to five times faster than the current Thunderbolt.

Apple had the exclusive licence for Thunderbolt but it looks like Intel has managed to flog the idea to Acer and Asus.

The fact that Intel made an exclusive deal with Apple has proved to be a bit of an own goal. For Thunderbolt to be successful it needs peripherals to be made for it. Peripheral makers are not interested in making gear when the only market is the limited Apple Mac range.

With Acer and Asus adopting Thunderbolt for PCs, a larger number of peripheral makers could use it. The technology will be seen in Ultrabooks.