Thursday, May 25th 2017

Intel to Make Thunderbolt Royalty-Free; Looking to Increase Adoption

Thunderbolt is one of the most flexible data delivery mechanisms ever developed: it boasts of both enormous versatility and performance. These connectors have seen increasingly higher adoption rates due to these characteristics, but are still to trickle down towards mid-range and entry-level offerings, which would be certainly some of the products to benefit the most, allowing them to substitute numerous, costly ports for a single jack-of-all-trades connection.

Intel is looking to solve this problem by removing royalties from Thunderbolt, further increasing adoption by integrating controllers within its own processors. The first Thunderbolt 3 "Alpine Ridge" chips, introduced in the third quarter of 2015, were manufacturer's only solution to implement Thunderbolt in their products; an extra chip which added costs and complexity to designs, which ended up limiting adoption to only higher-margin products. With Thunderbolt 3 an integrated part of the processors, those issues largely evaporate, with system builders being freed of having to design accommodations for an extra chip. Intel did not specify which processors would include the controllers or when they will ship, but the company says that it is going to make the Thunderbolt 3 specification available on a non-exclusive, royalty-free basis. Intel could have played towards eliminating the royalties on Thunderbolt 3 but only supporting it on its own processors, but the company has chosen not to do that: the door will be open for AMD and other companies to bake in support for the interface on their own solutions, spurring innovation and, more importantly, driving down costs of adoption.
Source: ArsTechnica
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27 Comments on Intel to Make Thunderbolt Royalty-Free; Looking to Increase Adoption

#1
TheLostSwede
Wow, someone at Intel finally woke up and realised that if they want Thunderbolt to be adopted in the market, it has to be affordable and available from third parties. Better late than never in this case.
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#2
Chaitanya
There is still a lot of friction for adoption of thunderbolt and accessories are quite expensive. Hopefully this will push for cheaper accessories improving adoption of thunderbolt.
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#3
medi01
Soo, my take away is chipset on AMD boards supporting it is surely possible.
But what about CPU, can AMD integrate it royalty free? (or at all)

I'm puzzled by Intel's motivation here, they are basically giving up on their Apple lock, was it pressure from Apple Inc perhaps?

PS
Prices will go down once it is not an apple only thing.
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#4
champsilva
Chaitanya
There is still a lot of friction for adoption of thunderbolt and accessories are quite expensive. Hopefully this will push for cheaper accessories improving adoption of thunderbolt.
Royalty-free will cheapen the price.
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#5
Imsochobo
medi01
Soo, my take away is chipset on AMD boards supporting it is surely possible.
But what about CPU, can AMD integrate it royalty free? (or at all)

I'm puzzled by Intel's motivation here, they are basically giving up on their Apple lock, was it pressure from Apple Inc perhaps?

PS
Prices will go down once it is not an apple only thing.
apple-lock ?
haha, apple chose thunderbolt, Intel delivered.
Intel had royalty, apple paid.

Easy as that, you can get AMD boards with thunderbolt and devices with it, it costs money just as devices with HDMI.
You pay 15 bucks extra for a pc monitor with HDMI over the exact same without - Royalty.

My feeling is that there is a catch to what Intel is doing here ? or no ?
if no: thank you Intel!
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#6
EarthDog
Too little too late. I've been screaming for years its useless for a plethora of reasons... will this help? Doubt it. Intel needs to drop it and move on.
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#8
TheLostSwede
EarthDog
Too little too late. I've been screaming for years its useless for a plethora of reasons... will this help? Doubt it. Intel needs to drop it and move on.
Useless? For you maybe. I know plenty of people that finds it very useful. Each to their own. Overpriced, yes, but useless, no.
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#9
Octavean
Human Sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria,....

Hell has frozen over,....right,...?
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#10
EarthDog
TheLostSwede
Useless? For you maybe. I know plenty of people that finds it very useful. Each to their own. Overpriced, yes, but useless, no.
Useless is a bit dramatic. :)

They have been pushing it for years and for many reasons, just hasn't gained traction. Initially, and up until very recently, very few devices even have it. Mobos do, but there weren't many peripherals out which had it, or, and as it still is now as you already noted, there was(is?) a price premium too. Perhaps now this will open doors, and get more pull in the market, but, really, I won't hold my breath.

... as good as it can be as a standard port for many high bandwidth uses. :)
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#11
Fourstaff
Beginning of the end for USB? Or the next Firewire? I think its too early to say, this can swing both ways.
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#12
Ubersonic
Finally, maybe they noticed how making it Apple exclusive for the first year almost killed it and decided that doing the opposite would have the opposite effect lol.
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#13
HisDivineOrder
So many years too late. This should have been obvious from Firewire years and years ago. Better late than never? Nah. It's too late.
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#14
medi01
Imsochobo
you can get AMD boards with thunderbolt
Really? Where?
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#15
Ubersonic
medi01
Really? Where?
There aren't any, he's thinking of Displayport (same connector as Thunderbolt 1/2) or USB type-C (same connector as Thunderbolt 3).
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#16
Grings
Thunderbolt 3 needs 4x pci-e 3.0

We wont see it on AM4 unless a board manufacturer gives it lanes from the m.2 slot,16x slots or fits a Plx chip or similar

I think even the upcoming AMD hedt platforms chipset is still pci-e 2, though that does at least have enough cpu lanes to use, as x99 boards do at the moment
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#18
Prima.Vera
Just kill that shitty expensive port.
USB 3.1 is more than sufficient.
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#19
ypsylon
About time. TB is far superior to USB on every level, just need for pricing to go down with increased adoption rate and USB will be gone in few years.

At the moment I have few boards which are 'TB-ready' (there is TB header), but no compatible controller. Nice...:wtf:
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#20
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Fourstaff
Beginning of the end for USB? Or the next Firewire? I think its too early to say, this can swing both ways.
USB isn't going anywhere because it was designed to be cheap and expandable. I think what will happen is that most mid-high end laptops will get a Thunderbolt port to give more desktop-like interconnect when the situation demands it. I think it will also show up on premium desktop motherboards. Usage of Thunderbolt will remain fringe like IEEE1394. For example, I could totally see laptop users plugging into a desktop workstation using Thunderbolt to drive multiple monitors with more GPU performance so you have portable and stationary options for work flow. I could also see Intel NUCs hooking up to external, mid-range external graphics cards for that GPU oomph they lack for HTPC use. Most people will never use Thunderbolt.
ypsylon
About time. TB is far superior to USB on every level, just need for pricing to go down with increased adoption rate and USB will be gone in few years.

At the moment I have few boards which are 'TB-ready' (there is TB header), but no compatible controller. Nice...:wtf:
Uh....do some research on Thunderbolt products available now. They're more like external PCI Express lanes than anything else. Plugging devices like keyboards and mice directly into a PCI Express lane is costly and wasteful.
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#21
HopelesslyFaithful
ypsylon
About time. TB is far superior to USB on every level, just need for pricing to go down with increased adoption rate and USB will be gone in few years.

At the moment I have few boards which are 'TB-ready' (there is TB header), but no compatible controller. Nice...:wtf:
agreed. The port and how it works is way ahead of USB. USB has always been a generation or 2 behind like HDMI vs DP.
FordGT90Concept
USB isn't going anywhere because it was designed to be cheap and expandable. I think what will happen is that most mid-high end laptops will get a Thunderbolt port to give more desktop-like interconnect when the situation demands it. I think it will also show up on premium desktop motherboards. Usage of Thunderbolt will remain fringe like IEEE1394. For example, I could totally see laptop users plugging into a desktop workstation using Thunderbolt to drive multiple monitors with more GPU performance so you have portable and stationary options for work flow. I could also see Intel NUCs hooking up to external, mid-range external graphics cards for that GPU oomph they lack for HTPC use. Most people will never use Thunderbolt.


Uh....do some research on Thunderbolt products available now. They're more like external PCI Express lanes than anything else. Plugging devices like keyboards and mice directly into a PCI Express lane is costly and wasteful.
would love to see more external USB SSDs/flashdrives using TB. If TB is in every device there is no need for 8 TB ports. You only need 1 or 2 to use it where it is needed. docking stations, monitors, HDD/SSD, GPUs, other low latency/high bandwidth needs.

Seeing 1/2 TB ports on every device would be amazing and allow a lot more products to utilize it.
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#22
Prima.Vera
HopelesslyFaithful
agreed. The port and how it works is way ahead of USB. USB has always been a generation or 2 behind like HDMI vs DP.




would love to see more external USB SSDs/flashdrives using TB. If TB is in every device there is no need for 8 TB ports. You only need 1 or 2 to use it where it is needed. docking stations, monitors, HDD/SSD, GPUs, other low latency/high bandwidth needs.

Seeing 1/2 TB ports on every device would be amazing and allow a lot more products to utilize it.
That's Apple brainwashing talking.
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#23
Aquinus
Resident Wat-man
You also realize that Thunderbolt is partially expensive because of how it was implemented. It's literally a PCI-E port with a mux/demux chip on each end of the cable where it uses different signaling over the cable than it does coming into or out of the port on the computer/device (hence why the ends of thunderbolt cables get warm to the touch.) That's why there can be (and are,) copper and fiber Thunderbolt cables. It's partially expensive because of what it needs to do in order to accomplish it.
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#24
HopelesslyFaithful
Prima.Vera
That's Apple brainwashing talking.
uhuh. The capability of the cable/port speaks for itself.

your logical fallacy shows how weak you are on this topic.

www.extremetech.com/extreme/207211-intels-thunderbolt-3-offers-usb-compatibility-at-full-thunderbolt-speed

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface)



also if i understand correctly can use USB 3.1 C cables and TB cables in the same port since TB supports both modes and both cables. That is awesome.
www.digitaltrends.com/computing/what-is-usb-3-1-when-will-it-be-released-and-what-will-it-do-for-pcs/
Starting with Thunderbolt 3, Intel switched to USB Type-C ports and cables and made the standard cross-compatible with USB 3.1. That means that if the manufacturer supports it, the same device can use both Thunderbolt and USB 3.1 operating modes to transfer data, video, and power. The USB Type-C port on the 2015 Macbook is compatible with both USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Thunderbolt 3 standards, and adapters for standard USB Type-A and older Thunderbolt ports and cables are available.
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#25
Aquinus
Resident Wat-man
HopelesslyFaithful
also if i understand correctly can use USB 3.1 C cables and TB cables in the same port since TB supports both modes and both cables. That is awesome.
www.digitaltrends.com/compu...l-it-be-released-and-what-will-it-do-for-pcs/
Same cable and connector, yes but there are limitations. TB 1 and 2 had special circuitry in the connectors to mux/demux the PCI-E signal into something that can handle distance a little better. If you're using a passive TB3 cable (run of the mill Type C cable,) you're incredibly limited when it comes to distance unless you have an active cable, much like TB1 and 2.

So, there is a benefit in the sense that you can use cheaper and more basic cables but, your range is incredibly limited (< 1 meter @ 40Gbps) on a passive cable and if the quality is poor, it very well could still drop down to 20Gbps. The flexibility is nice but, it comes at a cost and like regular TB2 cables, you can't subtitute in active ThunderBolt cable for a Type C cable using USB, just as you can't use a ThunderBolt cable to drive Mini-DisplayPort.
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