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Intel plugs optical links to PCs

Posted: 30 Sep 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel Light Peak? optical cable? interface? USB?

Intel Corp. has introduced Light Peak, a 10Gbit/s optical cable that will consolidate all the wired connections in PCs. It plans to roll out a controller to drive the interface sometime next year working with Sony Corp.'s Vaio group and other unnamed partners.

Light Peak is essentially an effort to merge the future of both USB and display interfaces such as DisplayPort. It parallels the efforts years ago to consolidate serial and parallel ports on USB.

Intel demonstrated an early version of the link carrying uncompressed high definition video over 40m from a notebook computer to a monitor at the Intel Developer Forum. The technology could run at distances up to 100m.

"The reason we showed it in a notebook is the number of connectors you need limits the size of the system," said Dadi Perlmutter, general manager of the Intel Architecture Group in a keynote address.

Light Peak is well ahead of demand. The 5GHz version 3.0 of USB is just emerging in products next year, and DisplayPort, an interface that is replacing analog VGA and DVI, is now becoming mainstream on PC products.

But Perlmutter hopes the new optical link will take over when those copper interconnects run out of steam. "It will take years for this technology to be mainstream," he said. "We will have the silicon that supports it next year, and there will be some systems next year or so but it will take time for an ecosystem to build up."

He declined to name any other partners beyond Sony working with Intel on the effort. However, he said the technology will eventually go through an industry standards process.

"Whatever happened to Pat Gelsinger's calls for a 'Radio Free Intel'?" said Richard Doherty, principal of consulting form Envisioneering. "I wonder if this initiative is coming in part because Intel lacks intellectual property in 60GHz technology, he said.

A handful of companies including startup SiBeam are developing 60GHz chips to handle uncompressed high def video wirelessly. Intel's efforts to enable a wireless version of USB faced setbacks when several startup chipmakers went out of business due to the recession and the difficulty getting the initiative off the ground.

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