Apple Looks to Intel's Light Peak for Peripheral Technology

Intel is working on a new optical-based peripheral port for computers, and Apple may be planning on using the new technology in upcoming products. Apple's interest in the new technology, dubbed Light Peak, may run deeper, too, since it looks as if the company asked Intel to develop the optical port, according to Engadget.

Intel showed off Light Peak -- on a PC hacked to run Mac OS X -- during its Intel Developer Forum in September with the promise that the technology would support multiple I/O protocols through a single cable and offer higher bandwidth than current computer ports at 10Gbps. Light Peak will also offer longer distances between peripherals compared to current technology, and will require smaller connectors, too.

Intel's Light Peak technology

If Light Peak lives up to Intel's promises, it could replace USB FireWire and eSATA, and essentially make the upcoming USB 3.0 standard obsolete before it launches.

The specifications for Light Peak apparently came directly from Apple, and according to unnamed insider sources, the company could be planning on including the new port on computers as early as Fall 2010. Light Peak has the potential to replace every port on a computer, meaning external display connectors, Ethernet, audio, and peripheral connections -- in essence, everything would route through a single optical port.

Apple's plans for Light Peak allegedly include the iPhone and iPod for networking and multimedia output, too.

If Apple is planning on adding Intel's new port technology to its products, expect to see adapters for USB and FireWire products roll out around the same time with Light Peak-native peripherals following later.

This wouldn't be the first time Apple adopted new connector technology ahead of the rest of the PC industry. The company abandoned SCSI for FireWire, and kick started USB with the introduction of the iMac.

This time, however, Apple isn't alone because Sony is planning on including Light Peak in upcoming products, too.

Despite the promises Light Peak makes, don't expect to see FireWire and USB vanish into the night, at least not right away. Both are well established standards, and many product developers will likely wait and see how the technology works out for Apple before investing in Light Peak development themselves.