Third-Party Thunderbolt Docking Stations Remain Vaporware as Shipping Dates Pushed Back
More than a year after the debut of the Apple Thunderbolt Display, which incorporates a docking station function offering three USB ports, one Firewire 800 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a second Thunderbolt port to enable daisy chaining, consumers are still looking for a similar product in a cheaper, standalone format that forgoes the expensive display included in the Apple product.
Belkin seemed to be the first third-party company to be preparing a standalone Thunderbolt docking station, showing off its prototype in September 2011 and soon after noting that it planned to launch the product in "spring 2012". In January of this year, Belkin revealed a redesigned docking station prototype, announcing that it would ship in September and be priced at $299. And by June, Belkin had revised its docking station again, adding HDMI and eSATA capabilities as well as upgrading to USB 3.0 ports, but also bumping the price to $399.99.
Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock
At the time, Belkin was sticking to its launch timeframe of September 2012, but the company has since quietly updated its site and revised its June press release to quote a launch in the first quarter of 2013. The reasons for the delays are unclear, but consumers who have already waited a year for the product to launch and who now have to wait three to six more months are undoubtedly becoming impatient.
Belkin is not the only peripheral manufacturer looking to launch a Thunderbolt docking station, however, with Matrox having announced its $249 DS1 back in early June. The DS1, which was introduced with DVI, Gigabit Ethernet, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a USB 3.0 port, audio in/out ports, was also scheduled for a September 2012 launch and the lower pricing compared to the Belkin offering was viewed as potential advantage, particularly when Belkin raised the price of its redesigned dock by $100 just a few days later.
But in a press release issued last week, Matrox announced that shipping on the DS1 is now scheduled for December 2012. In attempting to soften the blow of a delayed shipping target for the DS1, Matrox also announced that the device will be available in two versions, the original one with DVI out and a new version with HDMI out. Pricing is set at $249 for both versions.
Apple and Intel have touted Thunderbolt as a revolutionary new input/output technology, but adoption has been rather slow since the technology first appeared on the MacBook Pro in February 2011. High-end storage, camera, and video capture accessories have been the first to adopt Thunderbolt technology, even as Apple's Mac Pro desktop has yet to see it incorporated. Thunderbolt has begun filtering down into consumer class peripherals as pricing seems to have begun coming down, but it still appears that Apple and Intel have a ways to go if they hope to achieve their vision of Thunderbolt as the next-generation standard for connectivity.