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Long road to SuperSpeed USB

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:USB 3.0? SuperSpeed USB? interface? processor?

Intel Corp.'s decision to wait until 2011 to support USB 3.0 in PC chipsets will put the wide adoption of the interconnect on hold for a year, said a senior technology manager at a top tier PC maker.

The issue is the second to dog a major USB initiative, following the virtual collapse of UWB-based wireless USB which is effectively dead, said the source who asked not to be named. In its place, interest is now building for 60GHz technology, but separate industry groups need to unite to ensure the future of it, he added.

Without chipset support from Intel for USB 3.0 aka SuperSpeed USB, adoption in 2010 will be limited to "a few high-end graphics workstations and consumer systems," said the source. That's because system makers will be forced to buy discrete host controllers for their motherboards, a relatively high cost.

"It's hard to commit to an emerging technology like this when the key silicon enablers are not making it a priority," said the source, referring to Intel. "You get into a chicken-and-egg situation," he added.

The 5GHz USB 3.0 spec got plenty of attention at the Intel Developer Forum last month with a dozen chip, system and software vendors showing products with throughput up to 250MBps.

At the time one source said Intel originally planned to sample chipsets supporting USB 3.0 in early 2010, then shifted its plans out a year. The PC technology manager confirmed that report. An Intel spokesperson said he had not heard of any delay, but declined further comment.

USB 3.0 "won't get real traction until it gets integrated in the chipsets," said the PC manager.

That poses a problem for a handful of chip makers rolling out products such as storage controllers for the technology. But it would not be the first time Intel and Microsoft initiative managers have rallied the industry to support a new spec only to have their own key product teams move slowly to adopt it.

The Microsoft and Intel "tech and strategy groups are not always aligned with the product development teams that are in the mode of trying to make revenue and prioritize what to integrate," the PC manager said.

Intel's chipset teams are currently focused on supporting Nehalem, Intel's first processor to use an integrated memory controller. They also are working through a transition to the 5GHz PCIe 2.0 spec.

"They need to prioritize their time and resources on a whole host of things and have to consider the compelling needs for USB 3.0 now versus 18 months later," the source said.

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