Report: Apple Could Bring Light Peak to Macs in 2011

| Product News

Apple Inc. could be planning to bring Light Peak to the Mac platform as soon as the early part of 2011, according to a report from CNet. Light Peak is a next generation technology for connecting computer peripherals through an optical cable at speeds up to 10 Gigabits per second, twice the speed of USB 3, which Apple currently does not support.

Citing a single unnamed source “familiar with the progress of the technology,” CNet said Light Peak will appear earlier, rather than later, in that first half of 2011, which means Apple could be introducing it in the first quarter.

Intel has been developing the technology for years, and first demonstrated it in 2009 (on a Hackintosh, but that’s neither here, nor there). Apple reportedly approached Intel with the idea for developing Light Peak in 2007, though there are conflicting reports that make the technology a home grown Intel effort.

Light Peak Connector

Light Peak Connector
Source: Intel

Light Peak’s strengths include the enormous bandwidth it offers, and the fact that it can be implemented as a one-size-fits-all connection technology. In other words, a single port could theoretically handle a display, a printer, external storage, and even your iOS device.

At the very least, Apple could replace the multitude of ports currently found on Macs (Mini DisplayPort, USB 2, FireWire 800) with one or more Light Peak ports, allowing users to use them as needed.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has often decried the mess of cables that can clutter a desk, and his company has regularly tried use proprietary connection technologies for external displays, for instance, that eliminate some of these cables.

In addition, Apple has a strong track record of introducing new technologies and trends, technologies that the rest of the PC industry then gloms onto (to wit: USB, FireWire, dropping the Floppy Drive, dropping optical drives, etc.).

As such, it makes sense for Apple to be the first PC company to introduce Light Peak in a product, and it makes even more sense for Intel to let Apple do so. As an Intel-designed technology, the company could make billions from the rest of the world transitioning from USB, FireWire, and various display technologies to Light Peak.

Lastly, the other likely technology to serve faster bandwidth needs is USB 3, a technology Steve Jobs recently told a customer his company isn’t supporting. If you want it anyway, however, LaCie announced earlier on Thursday that it was releasing USB 3 drivers for the Mac that work with its line of USB 3 products.

Comments

Bryan Chaffin

I am personally very, very excited about this technology, and I hope that CNet’s unnamed source knows of which he or she speaks.

MyRightEye

Apple will be rolling out new Macs that have a single port that does both USB 3 and LP in the same plug.

Lancashire-Witch

Will we really get 10 Gigabits/sec with LP?  Or will it be another YMMV connection?

Just Me

Ummm… 20011???

Nemo

It takes a lot to introduce a new superior technology that connects to other devices and get everybody or enough of the right people on board at the same time.  Superiority of technology isn’t enough.  Apple knows this.  It knows that you have to coordinate a lot of players, some of whom are friends and other who are foes, to successfully introduce a new bus technology. 

But, having done this type of thing so many times so successfully in past, even when it wasn’t such a dominant company, Apple is the right company to pull this off.  With its present clout and by offering the technology to all on fair terms and with the ability to implement Light Peak on OS X and iOS devices, Apple should be able to bring along the industries for computer, peripherals, monitors, TV, etc. and make Light Peak a success and a boon for users of it.

Garion

I for one dread another painful stretch of years with Apple on one side, and the rest of the industry on the other side. We’ve seen it before with FireWire which Apple even used to put on iPods as the way to sync your iPod to your Mac or PC, and then, after a stubborn long fight, they quitly ditched FireWire for USB 2.0, which had been the predominant standard for consumer peripherals for a long time by then. They even gave up the FireWire port on the low end MacBooks for USB ports only.

And now that USB is ubiquotous and the rest of the world is preparing for USB 3.0, which is backwards compatible with all our present USB 2.0 gear, Apple decides to go it alone once again and introduce a whole new proprietary, and incompatible connection standard?

How did it go the last time Apple tried to pull this off with the DisplayPort? Did the rest of the industry follow Apple’s lead on that “standard”? Not so much, no.

The only winners I see in this upcoming format war are the makers of LightPeak-to-USB 3.0 adapters. And looking at the differences in technology involved I can’t imagine those adapters will come cheap. You and I, the consumers will be the loosers in this war.

Nemo

Garion:  First, read the article.  Apple isn’t going it alone.  Intel is fully behind this and, unlike USB 3.0, will be implementing full support for Light Peak in its silicon.  Also, Light Peak will be offered to all on terms that are no worst than those available to Apple.  And Light Peak is not only superior, it, as the need for bandwidth increases, is the tech that can supply that need with longer cabling and cheaper implementation in hardware.  Finally, Light Peak will make it much easier to design hardware, because one or two universal ports that can do everything replace three or four ports that each have a separate incompatible bus interfaces.

And Apple never abandoned FireWire, which is right here on my Mac.  Firewire, however, does find its best and most popular use among those who need greater bandwidth than USB 2.1 can provide, such as video professionals.

ppartekim

Wonder if one could built LP adapters? Ones that have Say LP on the computer but with USB on the device end. That would allow us to keep old devices and transition to LP when ready. They did with USB->Serial and USB->SCSI so why not?

spudgeek

Garlon, Apple used FireWire 400 on the original iPods because USB 1 was too slow. Apple switched to USB 2 when it became available as USB 2 and FireWire 400 perform similarly while USB 2 was more popular and physically smaller. They later switched to their proprietary multi-pin / USB 2 connection.

Garion

Nemo> I’m fully aware that LightPeak is Intel technology. But that doesn’t mean that PC manufacturers, other than Apple, are willing to jump on the LightPeak wagon. As far as I understand, Apple has a stake in the LighPeak IP. Who do you think is more likely to use that technology? Apple who was involved in the development of LightPeak or Apple’s competitors in the PC industry? Think about it.
And my reference to FireWire is very appropriate since that was another interface standard Apple had a hand in creating, and thus were first to adopt.

Congratulations with having a Mac with a FireWire port. Now, can you please show me where that FireWire port is on the new MacBook Air? Or the current MacBook? Yeah, excactly.

Bryan Chaffin

Garion, I believe that Apple will have the same effect on Light Peak as it had on USB. Before Apple, USB was nothing. Apple released the USB-only iMac, and within 9 months it was standard on the vast majority of PCs sold.

The situation with FireWire was much different. FireWire was more expensive (there is a royalty on each port, or at least there was), and not being owned by Intel it didn’t get pushed the same was as USB.

There are many other ways the two technologies differ that make comparisons moot.

Light Peak, though, has the potential to replace ALL OF THE OTHER TECHNOLOGIES OUT THERE!  That is massively significant from a design and manufacturing standpoint.

In any event, I believe you should look to USB for what Apple and Intel can do with it, and not FireWire or the various display technologies Apple has tried to make a go of.

I hope that helps.

mouring

Ok, if true that The 2011 MBP will get Light Peak (LP).  What would the connectors on the side be?

For the 13”/15” MBP:

Ethernet Port?—Left

FW800 port?—Gone, replaced with LP port (No translation cable) [Most painful for me since I live and die on FW400/FW800 due to Lightroom libraries]

Mini-Display port?—Gone, replaced with LP port (LP to DVI, LP to HDMI cables sold separately)

USB2 port?—Both left since the glue chips will still have USB.  No reason to do complex engineering with LP bus translators.

SD card slot?—Gone, externalized making a SD/CF card reader. (Sorry, I didn’t want SD anyways, I wanted an ExpressCard replacement!)

Mic/Head phones?—Combined like the MBA (about fracking time)

For the 17” MBP:

Ethernet, 3 LP, 2 USB, combined headphone/mac jack, and the ExpressCard will be gone like the SD card.

This gives Apple a bit more space for batteries so they can attempt to extend the battery life without removing the DVD drive yet… However, I’m seeing a time in the not too distance future where the DVD drive will also be externalized as well (and that day will sadden me).

SiriusA

does the fact that this technology uses light have any impact on battery drain?

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