VR Zone reports that Apple is considering the move as prices for USB 3.0 host controllers at an all-time low – around US$2 – US$3 apiece when bought in bulk. This compares toUS$10 – US$15 for a Thunderbolt chip, according to the report.
Though many commentators have put USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt down as competing technologies, Intel, the creator of Thunderbolt, plans to build USB 3.0 support into its hardware in the near future.
However, Apple will get there first, according to the VR Zone report, and Apple apparently sees the decision as a no-brainer, as USB 3.0 is backwards-compatible. Continuing to offer only USB 2.0 ports on future Macs when USB 3.0 controllers are so cheap just wouldn’t make sense.
In terms of data transfer speeds, though, Thunderbolt has a clear edge over USB 3.0. But as the report points out, Thunderbolt-compatible peripherals are more expensive to produce than USB 3.0-compatible peripherals.
Thunderbolt ports were first introduced in the February 2011 refresh to the MacBook Pro line-up, and have since come to the iMac, MacBook Air and Mac mini ranges. Sony has also used the technology in its Vaio range.