If USB can keep pace, maybe there isn’t an a need for Thunderbolt after all? Previously, USB went from 2.0 HS with 480Mb/s (35MB/s effective throughput half-duplex) to USB 3.0 SS 5Gp/s (400MB/s effective throughput full-duplex). This was a 11.4x increase in data rate (400MBps/35MBps). The USB 3.1 specification has just been announced and it promises double the speed of USB 3.0 by delivering up to 10Gbps transfer speeds. Currently Intel’s Thunderbolt delivers up to 10Gbps and can even inch out 20Gbps. However, USB is now hot on the heels of Thunderbolt’s speeds. Thunderbolt may offer better theoretical top performance, but it will still suffer in the consumer space due to expensive cables, compatibility, and low availability.
In addition, USB 3.1 is backwards compatible, so USB 1.0,2.0 and 3.0 peripherals are all compatible with the new port. So, all of our beloved USB devices will work right off the bat. Thus, the question remains, can Thunderbolt still make a dent against USB in the consumer space? Well, if USB keeps releasing revisions and improving their speeds, all while maintaining backwards compatibility, then the answer may not be as clear cut as we may have thought.