It’s been a little more than six months since Apple surprised the PC industry by pushing Thunderbolt technology out into the world — even though there were no peripherals in existence using the 10 Gbps connection, Apple was supremely confident that, once they built the jack into computers, peripheral-makers would figure out things to fill that interface with. The first products out of the gate were a desktop RAID system from Promise Technologies in June and the 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display in July.
News hit this morning that Thunderbolt product number three is finally shipping — the souped-up UltraStudio 3D capture and playback device from Blackmagic Systems, which supports dual-stream full-resolution stereo 3D over SDI connections, and pumps all that sweet, sweet data into your MacBook Pro (or, heck, your iMac) over Thunderbolt. And that got me wondering about the status of all those other Thunderbolt products that were promised earlier this year.
Here’s our post-NAB round-up of Thunderbolt product launches, including scheduled ship dates that were accurate as of April 2011. It’s no surprise that most of those ship dates have slipped. Making Thunderbolt peripherals can’t the easiest thing in the world — Blackmagic President Dan May told me the UltraStudio 3D is the product of “deep collaboration with both Apple and Intel,” and admitted that the company would have liked to make its original July ship date. And, of course, it’s possible that some companies are delaying the product launch as they wait for a more critical mass of Thunderbolt-enabled Macs to be in use in the wild.
LaCie’s Little Big Disk with Thunderbolt is still nowhere to be found, and the line of Thunderbolt MXO2 products from Matrox was pushed from a promised July launch to September. (If you buy one of the MXO2 products now, Matrox is offering a discount on its forthcoming Thunderbolt adapter.) Sonnet Technology has the Echo Expresscard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter available for preorder with a scheduled October launch, while its web site currently isn’t hazarding a guess as to when its Fusion D800TBR5 desktop RAID will actually ship.
Companies in this industry are rarely eager to share sales figures unless a product is doing really, really well, and it’s probably too early in the life cycle of Thunderbolt products to expect that their sales numbers are all that impressive. However, you can usually get a sense for what’s going on in Mac land by checking out shipping estimates at the online Apple Store, which currently indicates a three-to-five-week wait before new orders for the Pegasus RAID systems will ship, a strong suggestion that demand is outpacing supply in spite of a price premium on the Thunderbolt connection. And in the displays department, the good old Apple Cinema Display is shipping right away, with a two-to-three-week waiting period in place for the Thunderbolt version, at the same price.
So, yes, it looks like someone is buying this stuff — enough that it’s actually somewhat hard to come by. That’s good news if you’re fantasizing about turning your MacBook into a fully capable portable editorial powerhouse. As sales volume increases, prices will decrease — and, most importantly, hardware vendors will get more serious about coming up with innovative Thunderbolt applications.
Anyone out there got a Thunderbolt Mac with one of those Sonnet RAIDs? Or, even better, the new Blackmagic box? If so, how’s it working out for you?
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