Looking Forward to USB 3.0

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To follow up on the quick mention of USB 3.0 in yesterday's look at Intel, I can't imagine there's anyone who is not jazzed by the prospect of a 10-fold increase in transfer rates, plus fiber-optic connectivity. About the only cloud I see is that even after its expected arrival early next year, it could take a good two years to get actual product on the shelves.


A 5 Gbps "SuperSpeed" USB transfer rate probably won't matter much to most peripherals (unless you've got a helluva print job), but benefits to high data-rate devices like external hard drives and video networking components should make things a lot easier for evolving networks. Still, there's a lot we probably won't know about 3.0 until it's released: CPU usage, cable length, number of devices per channel and other goodies that could limit its usefulness if not addressed carefully.


Also still unclear is how Apple will respond. The company is still partial to FireWire, which tops out at about 800 Mbps, although plans are in place for a 3.2 Gbps version next year, with sights on 10 Gbps after that. Apple has not yet joined the USB 3.0 consortium -- which counts Microsoft, HP, Texas Instruments, NEC -- although it might be willing now that Intel has signed on, especially if the number of MacIntels keeps growing.


But just how handy will USB 3.0 be? Well, how about a data load that used to process in 10 minutes that can now be done in one. An hour-long transfer? Six minutes. If you work with extremely large databases or massive media files, please pull your head from over your keyboard so you don't get drool on it.


Of course, human nature being what it is, it probably won't be long before we'll want something even faster.