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Analysis: Bumpy ride to SuperSpeed USB

Posted: 24 Sep 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:USB 3.0? SuperSpeed USB? interface?

The Intel Developer Forum is expected to fire up the buzz around SuperSpeed USB, but the transition to the 5GHz interface may be slower and bumpier than many would hope due to cost, power and support issues.

At least two sources said Intel Corp. may not hit its schedule for sampling PC chipsets supporting USB 3.0 in Q1 10, a key trigger for a volume market ramp. One source said the chipsets could be delayed as much as a year.

Intel declined to comment on its USB 3.0 plans prior to the IDF. Typically, the chip giant triggers the volume ramp of new interfaces such as USB 3.0 by supporting the technology in its PC chipsets, enabling a generation of desktops and notebooks and creating an opportunity for supporting peripherals.

It's also unclear when Microsoft will have native driver support bundled with its Windows OS. The lack of native Windows support means OEMs or chipmakers have to write their own drivers, another cost and potential source of bugs.

MCCI Corp. hopes to fill the gap with USB 3.0 driver software for Windows that is now up and running and will ship before the end of the year. The company, which also sells USB software for cellphones, showed its USB 3.0 code enabling throughput of up to 270MBps at IDF.

Without chipset support, initial USB 3.0 systems will have to use dedicated controllers such the device NEC Electronics started sampling in May along with its own Windows driver software. According to one report, Intel will demo at IDF SuperSpeed USB using a Fujitsu notebook with the NEC chip, which is priced at about $16 in sample quantities.

Taiwan's Asustek is also using the NEC chip on a motherboard, the report said. Also at IDF, Point Grey will show a digital video camera streaming uncompressed 1080-progessive video at 60fps to an Asustek PC using a USB 3.0 host controller from Fresco Logic.

At least a half dozen other companies are developing USB 3.0 silicon, including Pericom Semiconductor Corp. Many are banking on a broad market of PCs supporting the new interface.


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