AirPlay and Thunderbolt May Be Limited to High-End Devices to Start

Earlier today, we noted that LaCie is preparing to roll out its first Thunderbolt-enabled Little Big Disk external hard drives, although the initial models will be limited to higher-end SSD-based devices.

iLounge now reports that slow roll-out of Thunderbolt and the lack of consumer-based options may be due to high pricing for incorporating the technology, an issue that appears to also be affecting third-party peripherals compatible with Apple's AirPlay streaming technology. According to the report, the inclusion of Thunderbolt or AirPlay compatibility can add as much as $100 to the price of these devices, limiting their ability to address mainstream consumer markets.
Our sources have described the AirPlay technologies as considerably more expensive to incorporate than Apple's standard docking Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad Dock Connectors, and noted that Apple is very heavily pushing developers to adopt the wireless technologies despite the costs involved.

We similarly have learned that the price of the components required to add a Thunderbolt port to an external hard drive is roughly equal to the cost of a low-end hard drive itself, a high cost that one developer has suggested will limit Thunderbolt's near-term use to products aimed at the professional market.
For the time being, announced Thunderbolt products do seem to be coming in at price points above those typically within range of mainstream consumers, as evidenced by Promise's 8 TB Pegasus RAID R4, which briefly appeared on Apple's store priced at $1399.95 before being pulled. That price is only $100 more than for Promise's current 8 TB RAID offering, but it remains to be seen just how quickly Thunderbolt will be able to make its way into more mainstream products.

iLounge suggests that there may at least be some hope for price drops for AirPlay devices in the relatively near future, noting that Philips earlier this week debuted AirPlay-compatible speaker systems with price tags as low as $229, a new floor in what has until now seen the feature primarily limited to higher-end receivers.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

113 months ago
Didn't Apple learn from the Firewire debacle? There's a reason USB won over Firewire and it isn't because it's a better technology. Apple has to stop with these expensive licensing issues if they want their technologies to stick. And they talk about Blu-Ray being a "big bag of hurt..." :rolleyes:
Rating: 13 Votes
113 months ago
This is part of the reason I don't understand why people were *so* excited over this. How could anyone expect anything different? I wouldn't expect this to be mainstream for a couple years.
Rating: 13 Votes
113 months ago
Is this really news ? I mean, seriously ?

You've got an interface that appears to be the extension of the bus on the motherboard - we're not talking 8bit ISA cards here, that has only just come out, and that is only available on new computers. Look at USB peripherals when they first came out !

Secondly for airplay - it's more expensive to build a 802.1x device with appropriate protocols on board than it is to put a dock - really ? are you sure ? really sure ? I'm assuming based on this the next headline will be 'rain gets you wet' .

The quality of mac news reporting is rapidly hitting lowest common denominator level with big scary headlines, glib, technically inaccurate statements and general lack of common sense and/or thought within articles.
Rating: 12 Votes
113 months ago
ridiculous conclusion

The comparison made here is silly. The Pegasus model without Thunderbolt is a mere $100 less. The fastest connection speed it supports is eSATA 3Gbps (not even 6Gbps). For an extra $100 you have access to Thunderbolt speeds, and this is going to slow adoption among this market segment? Give me a break. Probably not for consumers at the start, but to think a Thunderbolt device with this price increase for the extra performance wouldn't take off in this prosumer/enterprise environment is a silly conclusion.
Rating: 12 Votes
113 months ago


I just can't help but think that thunderbolt is either going to become a dead standard or is going to be really slow at being adopted. It just seems usb 3.0 will take over in that time.

Pro's will pick TB for audio and video capture as TB has very low latency and has capabilities of syncing data streams. Think of TB as a superset of USB 3.0 capabilites, just as Intel does.

The two standards are complementary, but everyone wants to make a horse race out of it. Apple will support USB 3.0 when Intel supports in on the chipsets for Ivy Bridge late this year.
Rating: 6 Votes
113 months ago
Why do Thunderbolt ports equal an "ultra quiet design"? Are USB and FireWire ports noisy?
Rating: 5 Votes
113 months ago

You daisy chain Thunderbolt devices, you don't connect them to a central hub. Would you really like to connect a mouse to a keyboard to a hard drive to a printer to a tablet to a monitor? So if you want to take the printer out then you need to rewire your entire room?

A computer can have more than one Thunderbolt port .... even hubs are possible.
Rating: 5 Votes
113 months ago
Though I love that Apple has put into use this technology somewhat exclusively, it's going to take a release of Thunderbolt into PC territory before costs can be lowered. We need a larger market.
Rating: 5 Votes
113 months ago
It's going to be interesting to see how this goes.

Let's face it, unless the PC market starts using Thunderbolt and it gets into mass market consumer products, it's a dead duck.

When I say dead duck, I don't mean it's not impressive and fast and Pro's won't want it, I mean as far as the mainstream views it.

I'm afraid people will use Thunderbolt as an excuse to price things, high, and actually there will be some who don't want to see Thunderbolt go to the lower price points. Yes, I know it's mad, but there are people who actually enjoy things being special and not owned by the mass market.

It's going to be a great shame in Thunderbolt dies at birth as far as normal consumer "Best Buy" items go. And we see the whole world embrace USB3 as the new default standard.

Why not have Thunderbolt as the new mass consumer standard and move on from USB3 before it takes over?
Rating: 5 Votes
113 months ago

2. Professional Video cameras (could be important place for TB)

TBolt is not a network or peripheral protocol. It is a PCIe expansion port that routes a small number of PCIe lanes out of the system chassis.

There are *no* TBolt devices available or proposed. Every proposed device has a TBolt to PCIe bridge, and a PCIe controller to connect to the actual device protocol.

The LaCie disk has
TBolt -> PCIe -> SATA controller -> SATA drives
inside of it. Is it any wonder that they're afraid to announce the price? (Note that you also have to include the second TBolt port for daisy-chaining.)

I really don't see camera manufacturers adding all that hardware inside a camera, plus two mid-sized port connectors - when USB 3.0 is probably far faster than the flash drive embedded in the camera. Lots of pain ($$) for no gain.

And, USB 3.0 is compatible with far, far, far more systems that TBolt ever will be.
Rating: 4 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]