2011 saw the introduction of the next great thing in high-speed-data port connections with Apple’s Thunderbolt. It really is a cool technology that could very well make the multi-cable peripheral-connection spaghetti-mess a thing of the past. The kind of speed that Thunderbolt is capable of delivering would be most at home on the digital professional’s desktop, so it’s video and photography folks who will most likely be adopting this technology first. Here we are at the beginning of 2012 with Thunderbolt existing on all of Apple’s machines except for the Mac Pro. Thunderbolt’s promise has also been hampered by the lack of more Thunderbolt products. So will the technology be a hit in 2012 or likely fizzle out into an expensive and specialty connection? It depends on whom you ask.
The latest edition of MacBreak Weekly begins with a good discussion on Thunderbolt that’s worth listening to if this technology is on your radar. Host Leo Laporte is close to declaring Thunderbolt DOA, as opposed to the other guests on the show, who seem to be a bit more optimistic that it might gain some traction. I think they, like most of us who could really benefit from Thunderbolt, are taking more of a wait-and-see approach. Final Cut Pro guru Larry Jordan has written the best current article about what many of us are wondering: Where is Thunderbolt?The short answer seems to be Thunderbolt came along too early and it’s too darn expensive. Just a Thunderbolt cable alone costs $50!
Thunderbolt is also a victim of the old chicken or the egg dilemma. PC makers won’t put Thunderbolt into their computers (thereby helping more widespread adoption) until there are more Thunderbolt products available. But those product makers won’t make more Thunderbolt products until there are more devices to connect them to. Like most new technologies costs will eventually come down and, if there are no additional road blocks, it will become more widespread. PC makers may finally be coming onboard in 2012 and indeed Lenovo has announced PCs with the Thunderbolt connection. That is unless it really is DOA. Apple has more plans for Thunderbolt, too, which could definitely push it fully into the ring: the USPTO just published three new Apple patent applications that could bring the technology to iOS devices. That alone would jumpstart Thunderbolt’s widespread use, since the technology will boost not just data transfer rates but recharge rates as well. 2012 may indeed be the make-or-break year for the technology, though it is too early to tell. You can be certain of one thing, however: if Thunderbolt does take over, we’ll all have to spend some extra money adapting to it.
In the meantime, Sonnet Technologies looks to be right at the forefront of Thunderbolt support (for video folks both Blackmagic Design, AJA and Matrox have some shipping products, too) and this video, below, looks at several of their products. Others have announced some cool Thunderbolt products as well.
Looks like it could be pretty cool at some point in the very near future. But that’s still quite a lot of spaghetti next to the laptop!