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Thunderbolt still a 'niche' due to Intel licensing requirements

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 
A number of factors have played a part in the small selection of available Thunderbolt accessories, but the most significant may be Intel's lengthy licensing and certification process.

A rundown on the state of Thunderbolt was published on Tuesday by ArsTechnica, which acknowledged that accessories designed for the high-speed port remain a "niche." It noted that more Thunderbolt-compatible devices are coming, but the initial selection has been limited thanks, in part, to Intel's licensing requirements.

Matrox


A number of vendors who spoke with author Chris Foresman claimed that Intel has been "cherry picking which vendors it worked with." The chipmaker has apparently opted to work closely with a select number of vendors to ensure products would meet its stringent certification requirements.

Intel has denied that characterization, but did reportedly admit that it has had limited resources to approve new products. But Jason Ziller, director of Thunderbolt marketing and planning with Intel, also suggested licensing will expand to a greater number of vendors this year.

Another sign of potential improvement in Thunderbolt availability came last week, when Apple quietly released a shorter cable measuring half a meter in length, and also shaved $10 off the price of the original 2-meter cable that debuted in 2011. Corning also showed off new Thunderbolt optical cables at CES that can transfer data over hundreds of feet.

Last month, AppleInsider offered a closer look at the Matrox DS1, an accessory pitched as the world's first Thunderbolt docking station. The $249 accessory allows users to connect a collection of peripherals with just one cable.

Thunderbolt was developed in cooperation between Apple and Intel, and first launched on Apple's MacBook Pro lineup in March of 2011. Since then, Thunderbolt ports have also begun to appear in some Windows-based PCs, though the number of available accessories has not yet taken off.

Thunderbolt pairs the high-speed PCI Express serial interface with the Apple-developed Mini DisplayPort to provide both data and video through a single port with I/O performance of up to 10Gbps. Originally codenamed 'Light Peak,' Intel had planned to use optical cabling but switched to copper wire because of cost constraints.
post #2 of 54

Simple: Intel makes PCBs; only make PCBs that include at least one Thunderbolt. You want to use an Intel PCB, you get to have Thunderbolt. And with it available, people will start using it.

 

Also cut the licensing [cost]. People whined about $1 per port for FireWire; imagine how they'd feel about this.

 

[EDIT]


Edited by Tallest Skil - 1/15/13 at 11:52am

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post #3 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Simple: Intel makes PCBs; only make PCBs that include at least one Thunderbolt. You want to use an Intel PCB, you get to have Thunderbolt. And with it available, people will start using it.

 

Also cut the licensing price. People whined about $1 per port for FireWire; imagine how they'd feel about this.



Perhaps Intel feels that TB should have the same coolness factor as Apple products so it feels justified in being such a tightwad with licensing?

What disappoints me is the constant bashing that trolls and iHaters give Apple thinking the goings-on with TB is Apple's bringing...

post #4 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Simple: Intel makes PCBs; only make PCBs that include at least one Thunderbolt. You want to use an Intel PCB, you get to have Thunderbolt. And with it available, people will start using it.

Also cut the licensing price. People whined about $1 per port for FireWire; imagine how they'd feel about this.

I dont' know. Wouldn't we have to know how much Intel charges for licensing in order to reach any conclusions like that?
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post #5 of 54
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post
Wouldn't we have to know how much Intel charges for licensing in order to reach any conclusions like that?

 

I'm just going off what the article says. Well, implies. lol.gif

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post #6 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Also cut the licensing price. People whined about $1 per port for FireWire; imagine how they'd feel about this.

Gotta love Google (or not), 4th hit on a search for that is an article from 1999, but fortunately a good article:
http://news.cnet.com/2100-1040-220209.html&st.ne.ni.lh
post #7 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post



Perhaps Intel feels that TB should have the same coolness factor as Apple products so it feels justified in being such a tightwad with licensing?


What disappoints me is the constant bashing that trolls and iHaters give Apple thinking the goings-on with TB is Apple's bringing...

I thought it was a collaboration. Not all Apple, not all Intel, though I don't know what the actual collaboration percentages are. I would assume more Intel than Apple though.
Edited by JeffDM - 1/15/13 at 11:39am
post #8 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

I'm just going off what the article says. Well, implies. lol.gif

Except that the article doesn't say a thing about licensing costs.
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post #9 of 54
So what. There are some cool products for Thunderbolt. Sonnet Echo Express, lots of external RAID boxes, Universal Audio has a Thunderbolt product for the Audio recording industry, connecting Thunderbolt monitors to a laptop/desktop, adapters to change Thunderbolt into something else, then these boxes that Matrox makes. Any time a new port comes out, it takes time to figure out what products and markets there are and bring the products out when it makes sense.

I'm really surprised the Audio Recording industry has released more Thunderbolt products, but maybe they are waiting for the MacPros to get released that HOPEFULLY should have them on the next models.
post #10 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Gotta love Google (or not), 4th hit on a search for that is an article from 1999, but fortunately a good article:
http://news.cnet.com/2100-1040-220209.html&st.ne.ni.lh

That was changed to $0.25 per system - regardless of the number of ports
http://www.macobserver.com/news/99/may/990512/newfirewirelincensing.html
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post #11 of 54
Meanwhile Intel freely and promiscuously licenses UltraBook, aka, PC Air.

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post #12 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


I dont' know. Wouldn't we have to know how much Intel charges for licensing in order to reach any conclusions like that?

 

Citation: http://astroaficionado.net/2011/06/24/high-licensing-fees-holding-back-airplay-and-thunderbolt/

 

Taken with a grain of salt from 2011 an article about the high entry pricing for AirPlay and Thunderbolt. Specifically, here is the area on Thunderbolt

 

 

Quote:
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.
post #13 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

Citation: http://astroaficionado.net/2011/06/24/high-licensing-fees-holding-back-airplay-and-thunderbolt/

Taken with a grain of salt from 2011 an article about the high entry pricing for AirPlay and Thunderbolt. Specifically, here is the area on Thunderbolt


That says that the cost of components is high. It doesn't say anything about the licensing costs.

Furthermore, it has nothing to do with TS' claim that THIS article discusses licensing costs.
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post #14 of 54

"Intel is the sole owner of the Thunderbolt spec. Building Thunderbolt devices requires a license to use the spec but no royalties need to be paid to Intel. Intel is also the only supplier of Thunderbolt controllers. Without Intel's permission, no other company can make a Thunderbolt controller."

 

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5425/why-thunderbolt-wont-come-to-the-iphone-anytime-soon

 

 

There are quite a few Thunderbolt products available.

 

https://thunderbolttechnology.net/products
 

post #15 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by PowerMach View Post

"Intel is the sole owner of the Thunderbolt spec. Building Thunderbolt devices requires a license to use the spec but no royalties need to be paid to Intel. Intel is also the only supplier of Thunderbolt controllers. Without Intel's permission, no other company can make a Thunderbolt controller."

I guess that puts to rest the claim that Intel needs to lower its royalties.
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post #16 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by PowerMach View Post

There are quite a few Thunderbolt products available.

https://thunderbolttechnology.net/products

It's not that impressive of a list. There were more USB 3 hard drive enclosures than that entire list combined, two years ago. TB is on 22 months now, with only 70 to 80 products to show for it, a good share of them are highly specialized.

For storage, the TB standard isn't competitive until you get into the bigger RAID boxes. The AJA and BlackMagic products are nice, but those are niche products. LaCie products you can just chuck out the window given comments by members here that bought some and had failures or fragile components, and not gotten support for them.

I want Thunderbolt to succeed, but this is just disappointing. For example, one device that adds a couple PCIe slots to a Mac mini is something like $1300. That's more than the top standard model of the Mac mini, so you're probably sinking $2000 to convert a consumer machine into a rack mount server. Which is interesting and has merit, but not something I'll buy and connect to my iMac.
Edited by JeffDM - 1/15/13 at 12:14pm
post #17 of 54
With USB3 about to double in speed soon, I think ultimately TB is going to end up another unused standard that falls by the wayside like Firewire.
post #18 of 54
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post
Except that the article doesn't say a thing about licensing costs.

 

It doesn't have to.


Originally Posted by jragosta View Post
…TS' claim that THIS article discusses licensing costs.

 

I didn't mean to claim price in that sense; sorry for the confusion. Post edited.


Originally Posted by 1983 View Post
With USB3 about to double in speed soon, I think ultimately TB is going to end up another unused standard that falls by the wayside like Firewire.
 

USB doubling in speed means half the speed of Thunderbolt.

 

Notice also that FireWire is the only port professional cameras would consider using, so your "fall by the wayside" is nonsense.

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post #19 of 54
I'm looking for the best price/size Thunderbolt storage solution -- presumably HDD. Anyone have any recommendations or links?
post #20 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

I didn't mean to claim price in that sense; sorry for the confusion. Post edited.

You said:
Quote:
Also cut the licensing price. People whined about $1 per port for FireWire; imagine how they'd feel about this.

Just how is that not about price? And in what sense could you possibly have meant that statement other than the fees that Intel charges for licensing the technology?

It really is amazing how you're so quick to say something silly and then when you're proven wrong, you completely change your story, claim you were misquoted, or dance around in any of another dozen ways in order to avoid admitting that you were wrong.
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post #21 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


I guess that puts to rest the claim that Intel needs to lower its royalties.

 

Right, except it is the sole licensor of the product as it controls the spec. Thus, they arbitrarily set pricing as they see fit.

post #22 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

USB doubling in speed means half the speed of Thunderbolt.

But that's USB in total compared to Thunderbolt in one direction. Then there is still real world v. theoretical speeds that could affect the performance significantly. Based on how TB works I'm guessing the real world speed is close to the theoretical then USB at 10Gbps is.

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post #23 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

Right, except it is the sole licensor of the product as it controls the spec. Thus, they arbitrarily set pricing as they see fit.

And they've already set the price at $0.00. So what is up with all the whining about price?

If you want to build a computer that doesn't have any proprietary technology in it, you're going to have a very hard time. In fact, it would be impossible. With Intel offering the license for free, any complaint about the price is insane.
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post #24 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


And they've already set the price at $0.00. So what is up with all the whining about price?

If you want to build a computer that doesn't have any proprietary technology in it, you're going to have a very hard time. In fact, it would be impossible. With Intel offering the license for free, any complaint about the price is insane.


Yes, yes, yes. But...Intel is the only supplier of controllers, which is fine, because they own the tech.

 

(I'm really not involved in any feeling either way - I just did a little research to find out about Thunderbolt licenses. I don't care if the price is high or low or zero.)

post #25 of 54
I actually think this is a strategic move against Apple's early reason of the tech, they want to position it with other vendors so they've been holding it back until now.

They've obviously been trying to one-up Apple with the 'ultrabook' image, even going to the lengths of 'implying' they came up with the form factor/standard prior to Apple's Macbook Air.

I'm honestly not sure why they feel this way. Intel's business model has not really focused in direct consumer market products before..
post #26 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer 
Right, except it is the sole licensor of the product as it controls the spec. Thus, they arbitrarily set pricing as they see fit.

They will still want to see it adopted so I expect they'll aim for fair pricing. This article hinted at $20 per device:

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-lightpeak-thunderbolt-acer-asus,14370.html

"Initially, Thunderbolt carried a cost of more than $20 per device and is prohibitively expensive for most computer systems."

That could just be the controller cost. The PC has to have a controller, then a cable with two microchips and a Thunderbolt controller in the device and then the license and certification fees on top.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57452782-92/can-intels-thunderbolt-go-mainstream-with-help-from-apple-and-acer/

"Chen estimated that Intel's Thunderbolt chips cost about $35 for a PC and $20 to $25 for devices that attach to it."

If it was $20 for the device controller + $20 for the cable + $20 license per device + $x for the license, that goes some way to explaining the premium. It only seems to be a $50 premium now though. Choose the 3TB USB3 Lacie vs TB+USB3 model and it's just a $50 difference:

http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10554
http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10600

I like that they have a stricter certification as it should mean you don't get people flooding the market with poor quality devices although that hasn't quite been the case so far. Reviews haven't been too positive for Seagate's TB adaptor and Apple's Thunderbolt display had issues.

Intel is due to bring the Redwood Ridge TB controller in Q2 so maybe it'll be a bit cheaper:

http://www.fudzilla.com/home/item/29997-intel-prepares-two-new-thunderbolts-in-2013?tmpl=component&print=1

You can bet this certification process is what's holding back external GPUs. AMD and NVidia obviously won't touch it. Thankfully 3rd parties are picking it up and they have plug-and-play dedicated GPU working:



TB will always be a niche but you can't do this sort of thing with USB 3 so it's a very useful connector.
post #27 of 54
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post
You said:
Just how is that not about price? And in what sense could you possibly have meant that statement other than the fees that Intel charges for licensing the technology?

 

 

I imagine you've never used the word price to describe anything but money.


It really is amazing how you're so quick to say something silly and then when you're proven wrong, you completely change your story, claim you were misquoted, or dance around in any of another dozen ways in order to avoid admitting that you were wrong.

 

Once again, I apologize. Less earnestly this time.

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post #28 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

TB will always be a niche but you can't do this sort of thing with USB 3 so it's a very useful connector.

I could see it becoming fairly common if Intel positions it correctly. If they could drop the cost considerably and add TB to the chipset I can imagine having a mDP connector on any decent notebook. The first will happen over time but I'm not sure if the 2nd part is feasible.

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post #29 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post




I imagine you've never used the word price to describe anything but money.

You said "price" and then you mentioned a $1 per port license fee for Firewire.

Do you really think people are dense enough to believe that you meant anything but money?
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post #30 of 54
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post
You said "price" and then you mentioned a $1 per port license fee for Firewire.

 

Third and last time: Yes, I apologize that the context made it sound that way. I should have used a different word; I should have written it differently. I did not mean money.


Do you really think people are dense enough to believe that you meant anything but money?

 

Yes, seeing as I did.

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post #31 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

 

Right, except it is the sole licensor of the product as it controls the spec. Thus, they arbitrarily set pricing as they see fit.

 

Sort of like Apple and their Lightning connectors, huh?

post #32 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post

Sort of like Apple and their Lightning connectors, huh?

And? All companies that license something set their own prices. Would you rather Apple didn't license their tech so that you only had to buy Apple's cables?

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post #33 of 54

Perhaps Intel are feeling a bit insecure about the ability of various vendors to bring TB products to market which do not cause problems such as those encountered in a variety of USB 3 devices.

 

The bottom line is still the cost. Until Intel gets the cost down, TB will not see wide adoption. They can either bring the price down to encourage its adoption or open it up to just about everyone and hope it generates the volume to get the price down. Frankly, it is not all that unusual for a manufacturer to price a product based upon a calculated long run average cost for an expected minimum volume rather than sticking with a price based on short run costs at a low volume which discourage purchase of the product because of price considerations. 

 

TB is a promising technology, but tech history is littered with footnotes about promising technologies that never succeeded in the market. 

post #34 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Notice also that FireWire is the only port professional cameras would consider using, so your "fall by the wayside" is nonsense.

 

Maybe 5-10 years ago. They are all USB now.

post #35 of 54
Originally Posted by Dueces View Post
Maybe 5-10 years ago. They are all USB now.

 

Not by a long shot, no.

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post #36 of 54

MSI are reportedly developing an TB external chassis with graphics card of their own design and manufacture. I can't find the reference to it just now, but there were some videos posted which were encouraging. The current TB ("TB I") can rather easily be saturated if using a graphics card and some external storage device, but TB II should be better in that regard.

post #37 of 54

It may share the fate of Firewire if Apple is stubborn. Dead regardless how good. I suspect it is not as much cost as unfriendly process.

post #38 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Not by a long shot, no.

Are you in the business? Do you use them? What i do know is, if it's in deck mode, it's bad because the cameras I know downconvert to HDV, and that can be a pretty serious degradation, going from 50Mbps (or higher) AVC to 25Mpbs MPEG2. It also transfers in linear time, you'll do faster pulling the media and directly ingesting the media at 10x the speed. Maybe you know more than I do, or have used a broader range of newer devices than I.
Edited by JeffDM - 1/15/13 at 6:37pm
post #39 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by maciekskontakt View Post

It may share the fate of Firewire if Apple is stubborn. Dead regardless how good. I suspect it is not as much cost as unfriendly process.

If Apple is stubborn? What does Apple have to do with it that would cause the adoption not to happen? The only additive I see is Intel using the mDP port created by Apple but that port interface if free to use. Not a single penny for the licensing.

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post #40 of 54
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post
Are you in the business? Do you use them? What i do know is, if it's in deck mode, it's bad because the cameras I know downconvert to HDV, and that can be a pretty serious degradation, going from 50Mbps (or higher) AVC to 25Mpbs MPEG2. It also transfers in linear time, you'll do faster pulling the media and directly ingesting the media at 10x the speed. Maybe you know more than I do, or have used a broader range of newer devices than I.

 

Not in the business, but I've certainly used professional cameras in the last… three years, I suppose. You're about right on the money there. The last ones I used were Sony-made, and of course they had their proprietary SXS (or whatever it's called) cards, but drawing the content off of those involved a simple accessory that itself terminated in a FireWire port, connecting to the iMacs they had. And of course there was one right on the camera itself. 

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