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Intel Light Peak could challenge USB

CES: Interconnect technology ready to launch

An Intel executive on Friday said that its Light Peak interconnect technology, designed to link PCs to devices like displays and external storage, is ready for implementation.

Light Peak, announced in 2009, was originally designed to use fibre optics to transmit data among systems and devices, but the initial builds will be based on copper, said David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Architecture Group, in an interview with IDG News Service at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought," Perlmutter said. "Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive," he added.

Perlmutter declined to comment on when devices using Light Peak would reach store shelves, saying shipment depended on device makers. Intel has in the past said that devices with Light Peak technology would start shipping in late 2010 or early this year.

For the majority of user needs today, copper is good, Perlmutter said. But data transmission is much faster over fibre optics, which will increasingly be used by vendors in Light Peak implementations.

Intel has said Light Peak technology would use light to speed up data transmission between mobile devices and products including storage, networking and audio devices. It would transfer data at bandwidths starting at 10 gigabits per second over distances of up to 100 meters. But with copper wires, the speed and range of data transmission may not be as great.

PCs today are linked to external devices using connectors like USB, but Perlmutter refused to be drawn into a debate on whether Light Peak would ultimately replace those technologies.

"USB 3.0 already has a traction in the market. I don't know if that will change," Perlmutter said.

There could be co-existence, with USB, display and networking protocols running on top of Light Peak.

"Look at [Light Peak] as a medium by which you can do things, not necessarily as one replacing the other," Perlmutter said.

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