Thunderbolt received a shot in the arm today when Apple announced today the release of the the “world’s first” computer monitor using a Thunderbolt display port. Thunderbolt, formerly known as Light Peak, is a new short range device connection technology developed by Intel. Since it’s introduction last February, it’s been fighting with USB 3.0 to determine which technology will replace the ubiquitous USB 2.0.
USB 3.0 has a lot going for it. It was officially announced a year before Thunderbolt. It’s backwards compatible with USB 2.0 devices. And it’s not much more expensive to produce than USB 2.0. Yet over the past year and a half, it’s struggled, and still hasn’t been widely adopted.
Last February, Apple introduced us to Thunderbolt. Twice as fast as even USB 3.0, and able to run video, Apple hailed it as a new dawn. While they may have been exaggerating, Thunderbolt is definitely impressive. It promises speeds of 10 Gb/s (1.25 GB/s), and the ability to run video directly means that it could theoretically be the only port on your computer.
Thunderbolt is having even more adoption issues than USB 3.0 though. While Intel has said it will support both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, several other manufacturers have come down on USB 3.0’s side entirely. HP said in May that it will stick with USB 3.0, and despite general support, not a single Thunderbolt peripheral had been announced until Apple’s announcement today.
Described by Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, Philip Schiller, as “the ultimate docking station for your Mac notebook”, Apple’s new Thunderbolt Display is in reality just a flatscreen monitor. But it’s a very nice flatscreen monitor. 27 inches, embedded HD webcam, and stereo sound … and of course the Thunderbolt connection. By itself, it’s just a really nice (and expensive) monitor. But it’s also the first Thunderbolt peripheral, and if it sells, it could be a major boost to Thunderbolt’s future outlook.