New iPad features Light Peak?

John Cox
23 February, 2011
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A news story is fueling speculation that Apple may be about to introduce a multi-gigabit peripherals connection, possibly for a future iPad or even for an expected refresh of its MacBook Pro notebook line later this month.

The latest round of technology speculation was triggered by a CNET story, which cited one source who is “familiar with this aspect of Apple’s plans.” The source tells CNET that Apple is expected to adopt the Intel-based Light Peak connection technology “in the near future.”

Intel initially demonstrated Light Peak at its developer conference in 2009, using a machine running Apple’s Mac OS X operating system, according to CNET. The idea is to create one alternative for the various cables that connect computers with monitors, printers, and the full panoply of exterior-connected devices.

Already, Apple-focused websites and blogs are speculating that what’s been dubbed the “mystery port” on some third-party cases purportedly designed for iPad 2 might be for a Light Peak port. Of course, it could be for the long-rumored and much more conventional iPad 2 USB port.

Light Peak’s bandwidth at first will be 10GB/s, eventually scaling to 100GB/s over the next 10 years, according to Intel’s Website. Intel expects Light Peak to appear in computers and peripherals in 2011, according to the company’s Website

Light Peak technology, including its own protocol, acts as a platform for a range of existing protocols that run on top of it. In a December 2010 interview, Jason Ziller, manager of Intel’s Light Peak project, explained that the “Light Peak protocol defines the speed. The protocol is running at 10GB/s per second. So, if the native protocols that you’re running on top of it are also running at 10 gigabits per second, or something close to that, then the effective bandwidth for a device on the other end would be equivalent to that (10GB/s).”

The inverse is also true, Ziller explained: “If the protocol is running less than that, for example USB 2.0, it’s just kind of riding on Light Peak but the effective transfer rate would be equivalent to the native protocol, like USB or FireWire.”

Ziller noted that today’s video streaming protocols like HDMI and DisplayPort 1.1 run at 10GB/s. Data protocols that could run over Light Peak include PCI Express, USB, SATA, FireWire and USB 3.0. USB 3.0 has transfer rate in theory of 4.8GB/s, with typical rates being just over 3GB/s.

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