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USB 3.0's Ramp-Up: Can't This Happen Faster?


Of all the connectivity technologies on the imminent horizon, USB 3.0 holds extraordinary promise. But although some devices based on it will make their debuts at the upcoming CES show, we can't herald the technology's true arrival yet. When many of us think of USB technology, we think of it as the familiar connectivity solution for our laptops, cameras, digital music players, and more. Indeed when USB 2.0 arrived years ago, it made many tasks, ranging from syncing data to transferring music and video, much easier. There are some signs that USB 3.0 is set to start doing such transformative things for our familiar devices. Unfortunately, it will happen only on a limited basis for the time being. In my recent post on predictions for what will be shown at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, I mentioned several USB 3.0 technologies taking shape. In response, I got e-mails from companies that will be showing them. The devices on tap for CES follow a range of USB 3.0 debuts that came at the Intel Developer Forum conference earlier this year. There, Symwave and MCCI demonstrated what they billed as the world's highest-performing USB 3.0 system, achieving speeds of over 270 MB per second. LucidPort Technology showed its USB Attached SCSI (UAS) protocol running over USB 3.0. And Synopsys touted SuperSpeed USB 3.0 data transfers for a host, hub, and controller in a single demonstration. Key players await 2011 on USB 3.0USB 3.0 is set to show up on some ASUS and Gigabyte motherboards, as TechRepublic notes.The bad news, however, is that Intel will not support USB 3.0 in its chip sets until 2011. AMD may not, either. Add to this the fact that Windows 7 doesn't have native support and drivers for the technology, and large and important parts of the computing infrastructure are currently unable to benefit from USB 3.0. There will be interim solutions. Microsoft has pledged to ship plug-in solutions for USB 3.0 and Windows 7. And if USB 3.0 gains momentum early next year, that may coax Intel and AMD to focus on it more quickly. It's too bad that the necessary parts of the computing ecosystem aren't coming together in unison to enable USB 3.0 to arrive in force over the short term. The technology is far faster than version 2.0. That it offers data transfer rates more than 10 times speedier has been shown in many tests. The USB Implementer's Forum has made the point many times that version 3.0 will allow a 25GB HD movie to be transferred in 70 seconds, instead of almost 14 minutes. Think about that—70 seconds. Likewise, because USB is the connectivity choice du jour for all kinds of consumer electronics devices, version 3.0 will allow for consumer applications that were either clumsy or downright unreachable before. Photo libraries will transfer many times faster, and syncing video content between devices will become more convenient. Working with multiple audio and video streams simultaneously in applications will become more approachable. USB 3.0 is also bi-directional, while USB 2.0 is not. That promises to allow simultaneous downloading and uploading at fast speeds, a potentially tremendous convenience. Additionally, USB 3.0 is targeted to allow peripheral devices plugged into, say, a laptop to suffer fewer charge drains. Devices being charged while plugged into a USB port will charge faster. Let's hope the stars can find a way to align behind USB 3.0 next year. I'm not betting that its true splash will come in January, though. Also from the GigaOM network: 10 Features That Would Make iPad a Hit Can We Kill Off Copper Next Decade? Hit or Miss? The Clock Is Ticking on These 5 Greentech Deadlines Top 10 Independent Favorites from 2009 Staying Just Ahead of Our Customers: How We Survived Tough Times
Sebastian Rupley is editor-in-chief of The GigaOm Network.

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