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Intel To Expand Thunderbolt 3 Reach, Plans To Open USB-C Specs

By the end of this year, the PC and Mac marketplace could feature nearly 150 devices with Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port. But Intel is aiming to expand the reach of its universal port design even further by integrating support for the connector into its future CPUs.

Starting next year, the company also plans to boost the connector technology by making the Thunderbolt 3 protocol specification available to other companies under a non-exclusive, royalty-free licensing arrangement. Announced yesterday, the move would enable third-party manufacturers to incorporate the USB-C technology into their chips as well.

First released by Intel and Apple in 2011, the Thunderbolt updated previous USB technology via a single cable that can support high-speed data transfers, device connectivity, and charging. The Thunderbolt 3, which hit the market in late 2015, provides speeds of up to 40 Gbps and can support dual 4K displays and up to 100W of charging power.

Integration Means ‘Thinner, Lighter’ Systems

Writing in an online editorial yesterday, company executive Chris Walker said the new CPU integration and specification plans are part of Intel’s “Thunderbolt 3 everywhere” ambitions.

“With Thunderbolt 3 integrated into the CPU, computer makers can build thinner and lighter systems with only Thunderbolt 3 ports,” said Walker, vice president of Intel’s client computing group and general manager of the mobility client platform. By making the technology available to third-party processor manufacturers, “[w]e expect industry chip development to accelerate a wide range of new devices and user experiences,” he said.

Currently, not all Intel chips provide native support for Thunderbolt 3. This means device manufacturers must either use Intel’s Alpine Ridge chip, designed to support Thunderbolt 3, or include Alpine Ridge as an add-on, which adds to a device’s cost and power consumption.

With Thunderbolt 3 support built into all of Intel’s chips, “all the…


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