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Thunderbolt Adoption Reportedly Slowed by Intel's Licensing and Certification, But Improvements Coming

Last July, Ars Technica took a look at the state of the Thunderbolt standard developed by Apple and Intel, noting that adoption remained slow amid high pricing some eighteen months after the standard's introduction. The report did, however, suggest that pricing could begin to improve in 2013 as the next generation of Thunderbolt chips hit the market.

Ars Technica has now published a follow-up report looking at how things have changed over the past six months, pointing to a number of improvements such as slightly lower pricing on Thunderbolt cables from Apple, the introduction of the first wave of optical cables supporting the standard, and the launch of new docking stations and other peripherals taking advantage of Thunderbolt.

The report indicates that the biggest holdup to wider adoption of Thunderbolt appears to be Intel's licensing and certification process, with the company dedicating only limited resources to helping third-party vendors bring their Thunderbolt products to market.
Several vendors we have spoke to over the past year have claimed that Intel was holding up the process, cherry picking which vendors it worked with.

Though Intel had effectively denied this characterization in the past, the company explained the situation a bit differently when we spoke at CES last week. Jason Ziller, Director of Thunderbolt Marketing & Planning at Intel, told Ars that Intel has "worked closely" with vendors it felt could "offer the best products" and could meet its stringent "certification requirements." The subtext seemed to be that Intel had limited resources to support and certify new products, and so it gave priority to devices that were perhaps more novel than those proposed by other makers.
Ziller indicated that Intel would be broadening its efforts this year, suggesting that more Thunderbolt products may be able to make their way into consumers' hands. Combining those efforts with continued cost drops and the first moves into Windows machines, Apple and Intel are undoubtedly hoping that 2013 will finally see Thunderbolt turn the corner.

Top Rated Comments

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23 months ago
Thunderbolt has been an abject failure to this point. Bytes from this article indicate that it will continue to be available exclusively at the professional price point for the foreseeable future.
Rating: 25 Votes
23 months ago
Meh. Its probably too late for Thunderbolt to be adopted at a large scale. USB 3, despite not being as good, is backward compatible to the many many many USB 2 + 1 devices out there.

I'm not buying new peripherals, I'll stick to USB.
Rating: 22 Votes
23 months ago
Firewire was not a flop and if Thunderbold does as well as Firewire is then I'll be a very happy Mac user for the forseeable future. Thanks to Firewire, Macs have been able to do things PC users could only dream of.
Thanks to FW the original iPod loaded music at least 10 times as fast as USB1, and was able to charge the battery in no-time.
Thanks to FW external harddrives have been constantly at least twice as fast as their contemporary USB counterparts, until the adoptation of extrnal SSDs attached to USB3.
Thanks to FW there's been bus powered external harddrives, many many years before USB could handle that.
Thanks to FW we could hook up digital videocameras years before those with USB.
Thanks to low latency FW with priority traffic FW enabled audio and video hardware that could never be attached to anything USB.
Thanks to FW we could daisy chain external units like harddrives, CD/DVD-burners, videocameras and a whole world of audio and video gear that USB users to this day can only dream of.
Thanks to FW we can target boot our Macs. That's something that USB will never be able to do.
Thanks to FW we could have our peripherals in another room, supporting cable lenghts of 100s of feet far beyond the range of USB.

Most of these features are replicated with Thunderbolt but not challenged by USB3 like much longer cable length, much higher bandwidth, lower latency, daisy chaining and target mode, and more electrical power. And Thunderbolt adds a lot of features to FireWire that's not supported by USB3, like monitor support, external PCIe expansion and protocol agnosticity.

Stuff we'll never see on USB are 4K (aka Retina) displays, 10 Gb Ethernet-ports (or multiple Gbit Eth) and bidirectional 10 Gb links is just the _first_ implementation of Thunderbolt. This technology is actually designed for 100 Gbps so it has room to grow.

So, no, it's just not designed to support the stuff like external harddrives so if that's your narrow scope of problems, USB is the solution.
Rating: 12 Votes
23 months ago
Hurry up! I want reasonably priced hard-drives, docks and adapters!
Rating: 11 Votes
23 months ago
What a joke. This should be their top priority. Nah, just let it die on the vine.
Rating: 9 Votes
23 months ago

As most have already point out, PRICE is the reason its not being adopted - not Intel's licensing or certification.


Intel licensing and certification increases the price?
Rating: 8 Votes
23 months ago

Thunderbolt has been an abject failure to this point. Bytes from this article indicate that it will continue to be available exclusively at the professional price point for the foreseeable future.


Thunderbolt is a prosumer-level technology, it's not designed to be a USB replacement. It's effectively a PCI-e bus extension. If you don't need what that offers then a USB 3.0 external drive might be all you ever need.
Rating: 6 Votes
23 months ago


The report indicates that the biggest holdup to wider adoption of Thunderbolt appears to be Intel's licensing and certification process, with the company dedicating only limited resources to helping third-party vendors bring their Thunderbolt products to market.


Intel is basically saying no, we don't discriminate among developers and then turns around and says, why yes we do! :rolleyes:

Thunderbolt isn't going to turn around any time soon. Exactly how many Windows PC manufacturers are supporting it? How many Mac users are going to choose a $400 1TB Thunderbolt drive over a $125 3TB USB3 drive with the same performance??? Only a few fanatics and those that bought 2011 Macs that don't have USB3 (and even they might be better of choosing FW800 drives if absolute performance isn't worth that kind of markup to them).

OTOH, I'm fast running out of USB 3 ports on my new Mini and apparently most hubs don't work well with it, especially with hard drives. It'd be ironic if I were forced to buy a FW800 or TB drive at some point due to a simple lack of a working hub for this thing.

Meanwhile, look at "unlicensed" products and their cost instead. I got a TB/MDP HDMI adapter for $3 with free shipping (compare that to $30). I don't think Thunderbolt HAS to be expensive. But one wonders how much licensing is costing these 3rd party developers. If it's killing Thunderbolt then it's Intel's own fault.
Rating: 6 Votes
23 months ago
I'm surprised by the number of Thunderbolt-haters in this thread. Comparing it to USB3 as if there is a direct comparison. It's apples and oranges. Thunderbolt is fundamentally a very different connector. You can hate it all you want, but it's here to stay and will be the preferred connector in the years to come.
Rating: 6 Votes
23 months ago

Meanwhile, look at "unlicensed" products and their cost instead. I got a TB/MDP HDMI adapter for $3 with free shipping (compare that to $30). I don't think Thunderbolt HAS to be expensive. But one wonders how much licensing is costing these 3rd party developers. If it's killing Thunderbolt then it's Intel's own fault.


What you have is a mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter, not a Thunderbolt-to-HDMI adapter.
Rating: 5 Votes

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