As speculated last year, Intel has now launched their new Ivy Bridge i5 and i7 processors.
This long awaited launch has created a lot of interest among hardware vendors and users alike.
Not least, because the new processors will offer support for both the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt high speed interfaces.
Intel has always stated they envisage the two interfaces co-existing together as they both fulfil a particular niche. Consequently they have released new motherboard chipsets that will support both technologies.
Thunderbolt however does require additional components to enable its functionality, namely the new Cactus Ridge Thunderbolt controller.
The Cactus Ridge Thunderbolt controllers are available in four lane, DSL3510 and two-lane, DSL 3310 variants. Each controller measures only 12x12mm with a thickness of 1.35mm and features low power consumption, ideal for the new Ultrabooks.
Ultrabooks are the new laptops that include a set of specifications as defined by Intel. No coincidence then that the Cactus Ridge Thunderbolt controllers are smaller and use less power.
Most hardware vendors already have Ultrabooks available, be it without Thunderbolt ports at the moment:
Because the Ultrabook is designed to be compact and light, they come with few built in devices like a DVD drive. By utilizing just one Thunderbolt port it potentially offers access to up to six external Thunderbolt peripherals, like a Thunderbolt external hard drive or Thunderbolt monitor.
There is also speculation that a third controller known as the Port Ridge DS2210 will be available. This only has the capability to be an end device with no support for daisy chaining. However it is smaller than its big brothers measuring just 6x5mm by 1.5mm so would be well suited to smaller handheld Thunderbolt devices.
Intel is certainly pushing Thunderbolt and hope that up to 100 Thunderbolt peripherals will be available by the end of the year.
If pc hardware vendors and motherboard manufacturers decide to include Thunderbolt ports then this number is a distinct possibility and will only increase with time.