Thunderbolt: Intel's Light Peak high-speed interface gets a new name

With the announcement of new MacBook Pros this morning came the news that Intel’s Light Peak technology is now known as Thunderbolt.

News hit yesterday that Apple would likely be the first company to adopt the new I/O technology, which is capable of incredible speeds of 10 gigabits per second in both directions. Thunderbolt ports will look like the existing Mini DisplayPort connection on older generation MacBook Pros and will sport a lightning bolt icon.

According to Intel, Thunderbolt’s speeds will allow users to transfer a full high-definition movie (between 10 gigabytes and 20 gigabytes in size) in less than 30 seconds.

The technology allows external devices to tap directly into the PCI Express interface on computers, which allows for the incredibly fast transfer speeds. As with FireWire devices, it will be possible to daisy-chain multiple Thunderbolt devices together, which means computers won’t have a need for more than one Thunderbolt port. The interface also provides power, also like FireWire, so users don’t have to worry about connecting extra power adapters to external hard drives.

Given its speed and bandwidth capabilities, Thunderbolt was meant to serve as a single interface to juggle multiple functions. The protocol is smart enough to know what you’re intending to use it for — for example, it will function as a disk interface if you plug in a Thunderbolt-capable disk drive, but if you plug in a Thunderbolt monitor, it will instead function as a display interface.

Other PC manufacturers, including Sony, are expected to adopt Thunderbolt later this year and into early 2012.

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