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April 26, 2011 - Dave Hecei
So far this year we've had new MacBook Pros updates. While this update was the typical speed bump, it also included a new technology that Apple now calls Thunderbolt. Over the next couple of months, Apple should be releasing other Mac models with this new port technology.
Thunderbolt is what Apple is calling Light Peak, a new high-speed interface born from Intel, Apple, and others. Original design was for Thunderbolt to be an optical interface, thus the name Light Peak. The marketing machine at Apple must of felt this name wouldn’t do so they came up with the name Thunderbolt. Maybe they decided to drop the ‘light’ in the name since the first incarnation is based on a copper cabling system.
Thunderbolt is a serial data interface with very high throughput. Apple now has Thunderbolt in the latest MacBook Pro laptop models. Surprisingly, Apple employed Thunderbolt in the Mini DisplayPort. Looking at a new MacBook Pro model you really don’t see anything different. Except by taking a closer look at the Mini DisplayPort jack you see an icon next to it that looks like, well, a thunderbolt.
Thunderbolt on the new MacBook Pro has a top speed of 10Gb/s (gigabits per second). Compare this to theoretical top speeds of USB 2.0 at 480Mb/s, and Firewire 800 at 800Mb/s. This puts the first version of Thunderbolt quite a bit ahead of the curve. Future versions of Thunderbolt are supposed to reach up to 20 or 30Gb/s.
So Thunderbolt is a new technology that Apple seems to be excited about. There should be some Thunderbolt peripherals coming out about now, or at least being shown. These will likely be video interfaces, high-speed hard drive arrays, and video-capture devices. Since Apple plans to support this interface whole heartedly, it will not be a surprise that any new Mac released this year will include Thunderbolt.
The next Mac likely to be updated is the iMac. Sometime soon would be the ultra-portable MacBook Air. What comes next could either be a whole new Mac Pro tower or an updated Mac mini. Rumors are starting to pop up about a redesigned Mac Pro tower. This is heavily on the rumor side of things, but reports of a new tower design likely still in aluminum but without the ‘handles’. The new design would make this tower slightly smaller and give it the ability to mount into a server rack as a 3U box. Since Apple has recently abandoned their server models this kind of makes this rumor somewhat believable.
Personally, I would love to see a smaller, and less expensive, tower Mac. This is something that I think Apple has been sorely missing in their Macintosh line-up. Come on Steve, not everyone wants an all-in-one design. A smaller tower could either replace the Mac Pro workstation or position itself in between the mini and the full Pro tower.
New Mac are coming, just when is the question. The likely first candidate is definitely the iMac. After that, it’s all up to Apple and how much time they can spend on hardware. You have to remember that they are still trying to come out with a new iPhone, new Mac OS (OS X Lion), and new iOS (iOS 5?) – all due out sometime later this year. Apple is very, very busy right now.
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