Thunderbolt to make major impact: LaCie

Tim Grey
4 March, 2011
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Last week, Apple made what could be considered a business-as-usual upgrade by adding faster chips to its MacBook Pro series – but for one exception; it introduced new technology dubbed ‘Thunderbolt.’

Developed primarily by Intel in concert with Apple, along with periphery manufacturers, the platform had previously gone by the moniker ‘Light Peak,’ but when for practical reasons Intel dropped optical fibres for copper cabling, obviously the name lost some appeal. But, despite the name change, the protocol still does some impressive stuff – namely, 10 gigabit per second transfers, both up and down the line – and it’s plenty faster than USB 3.0.

Drive maker LaCie was one of the first cabs off the rank in releasing its Little Big Disk, an external drive using Thunderbolt technology.

After receiving news of the Little Big Disk’s impeding launch this winter, Australian Macworld contacted LaCie to find out a little more about its development process, and how the company viewed the technology’s future.

According to the Little Big Disk’s product manager, Clement Barberis, who oversaw its development from Paris, the company has been working with Intel in developing Light Peak, showing off its 4Big Thunderbolt prototypes at the Intel Developer Forum back in September last year.

And, while the company says it can’t disclose exact details, it does confirm that the Little Big Drive – and Thunderbolt – was indeed a collaborative process.

“We cannot disclose any details of our collaboration with Intel and Apple, but we can definitely tell that the three companies worked very closely to develop the Little Big Disk thunderbolt prototype,” said Barberis.

The product manager believes the Thunderbolt technology, with its ability to connect multiple devices and still achieve immense speeds, will usher in a new approach to interconnectivity.

“Thunderbolt is definitely is a great step forward for connectivity,” he said. “It will have a major impact on the consumer electronic industry in terms of usage, offering infinite possibilities.”

He predicts that Thunderbolt could make way for thinner laptops that only required a single connector, linking multiple devices with one cord; full-length movie transfers will take less than 30 seconds; AV content will be edited via the recording device on the fly; and that whole systems will be backed-up during a coffee break.

But, despite the prodigious performance of Thunderbolt, which significantly outranks that of USB 3.0, Barberis doesn’t think one will obviate the other.

“LaCie strongly believe that these two technologies, developed by Intel, are complementary,” he explains. “Intel also confirmed that they will keep pushing USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt in parallel.”

At the same time, he’s confident Mac users are likely to be early adopters of the new technology.

“Today Mac users have adopted FireWire over USB 2.0, which shows their attachment to performance,” Barberis points out. “But Thunderbolt does not only have high performances capabilities. It also has bus power, daisy chaining and multi-protocol capabilities. So consumers will benefit much more than just performance out of the Thunderbolt interface.”

No doubt, the platform is likely to evolve over the coming months, as peripheral manufacturers (like LaCie) introduce more devices brandishing the technology.

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