The USB Promoter Group, the industry conglomerate responsible for convincing the world to use the Universal Serial Bus standard instead of Firewire or Thunderbolt, has announced a little something the working group has knocked up in the lab: a new version of USB 3.0 with double the performance.
According to the USB Promoter Group, the new USB 3.0 SuperSpeed standard will support data rates of 10Gb/s - double that of the 5Gb/s peak data rate supported by USB 3.0 today. Although the standard will require new controllers, the system is designed to be fully backwards-compatible with existing cables and connectors while tying in to existing USB 3.0 software stacks. Those still running USB 2.0 will be pleased to hear that the 10Gb/s USB 3.0 devices will connect just fine - although run at a significantly reduced speed, naturally. As the icing on the cake, the improved performance comes as a result of better data encoding and more efficient data transfer - meaning both performance and power efficiency are boosted.
'With USB technology continuing to be the data and power delivery path of choice across personal computing and consumer electronics, we are always looking ahead to how to best improve user experience and connectivity performance,' claimed Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group chair, at the announcement. 'Doubling SuperSpeed USB performance will be especially beneficial for emerging USB docking and storage applications.'
Boosting USB performance to 10Gb/s is a clear response to the threat of Thunderbolt, a rival interconnection standard jointly developed by Intel and Apple. Offering 10Gb/s per device across four PCI Express 2.0 lanes and an integrated DisplayPort channel, Thunderbolt is slowly but surely gaining traction as a solution for external storage and display connectivity. With both USB and Thunderbolt now offering - or, to be precise in the case of USB 3.0, soon to offer - 10Gb/s, the pressure will be on Intel and Apple to increase the throughput of their own standard.
The new USB standard, which has the backing of Microsoft, Intel and HP among others, is expected to go out for industry review in the first quarter of this year. Once review is complete, the standard will be finalised and manufacturers can start to implement it in their products - meaning, with a following wind, it's possible we'll see the first 10Gb/s USB 3.0 controllers and devices before the year is out.