Thunderbolt still a 'niche' due to Intel licensing requirements

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited May 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55


    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]

  • Reply 2 of 55
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,547member

    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...

  • Reply 3 of 55
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    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?
  • Reply 4 of 55


    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. image

  • Reply 5 of 55
    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
  • Reply 6 of 55
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    sflocal wrote: »


    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.
  • Reply 7 of 55
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    I'm just going off what the article says. Well, implies. :lol:

    Except that the article doesn't say a thing about licensing costs.
  • Reply 8 of 55
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 55
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    philboogie wrote: »
    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
  • Reply 10 of 55
    Meanwhile Intel freely and promiscuously licenses UltraBook, aka, PC Air.
  • Reply 11 of 55

    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.


  • Reply 12 of 55
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 55


    "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

     

  • Reply 14 of 55
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    powermach wrote: »
    "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.
  • Reply 15 of 55
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    powermach wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 55
    19831983 Posts: 1,165member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 55


    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.

  • Reply 18 of 55
    shogunshogun Posts: 360member
    I'm looking for the best price/size Thunderbolt storage solution -- presumably HDD. Anyone have any recommendations or links?
  • Reply 19 of 55
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    I didn't mean to claim price in that sense; sorry for the confusion. Post edited.

    You said:
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 55

    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.

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