There has been a lot of unanswered speculation recently regarding USB 3.0 and Intel’s involvement; I thought it was about time to set the record straight. By the way: USB 3.0 will be a new wired USB standard – operating at faster speeds than previous USB generations.Rumour 1: Intel is creating the USB 3.0 specification. Much of the incorrect speculation in the press so far has centred on what the USB 3.0 spec is, and who is creating it. There are two separate standards being developed, USB 3.0 and Intel’s Host Controller spec in support of the USB 3.0 standard. The recent press articles do not properly distinguish these separate specification development efforts. USB 3.0 – The spec: USB 3.0 is not an Intel specification; it is being developed by the USB 3.0 Promoter Group (HP, Intel, MSFT, NEC, NXP, and TI). The USB 3.0 Promoters issued a call for contributors in November 2007 and since then the USB 3.0 Promoter Group has been joined by over 180 USB 3.0 Contributor companies (Including other chipset makers such as AMD and Nvidia) who are helping to finalize the USB 3.0 specification. This spec is expected to be made publicly available by the USB 3.0 Promoter Group along with an adopter agreement early in the second half of 2008. (Very soon) Intel’s host controller spec – wholly different: In parallel, but separately; Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology. Think of the host controller spec as a ‘Dummies Guide’ to building a USB 3.0 compatible piece of silicon; it is NOT the USB 3.0 specification itself. The industry is keen to get this guide as it will allow them to build USB 3.0 compatible circuits without repeating the massive investment undertaken by Intel. After all, the sooner USB 3.0 hits the market, the sooner all you readers will be flooding your devices and hard drives with insanely large files requiring masses amounts of computational resources, improving your lives, and making you pleased that you bought a quad-core processor. Intel plans to make this spec available early in second half of 2008 with a no-royalty licensing obligation (Basically: free, gratis, unpaid, zero dollars, free of charge, at no cost, on the house). This isn’t only because we are just nice guys, but it is also because Intel has set the bar for technology leadership and industry stewardship. It is Intel’s stewardship that has lead to USB being the most successful interface in the history of computing. + We at Intel love it when available processor performance is used to the max. This is the same successful process that was followed for host controller specifications that supported the USB 2.0 and Wireless USB specifications. Rumour 2: Intel is holding back the specification, and not sharing with the industry. No Intel isn’t holding back the specification, the whole point of Intel investing heavily (gazillions of dollars and bazillions of man hours) into creating this ‘Dummies Guide’ is to enable the industry to start building USB 3.0 into their silicon as soon as possible, so why would Intel purposefully delay? One danger however of distributing an unfinished spec is the risk of incompatible hardware down the line, leading to a right mess. As an Intel specification Intel has the responsibility to insure that specifications we deliver to the industry are fully developed and mature enough for others to use. The Intel host controller spec is expected to be unveiled to the industry as soon as possible, in the second half of the year. The impatience of our fellow chipset-makers (as described in the press) to leverage Intel’s investment and begin to design great USB 3.0 supporting devices of their own is however very encouraging and should aid a fast USB 3.0 adoption ramp. Could anyone invest the necessary time and money to create such a host controller specification? Of course they could – but with Intel’s Industry stewardship in sharing our spec the industry doesn’t have to make the additional time and resource commitment. Rumour 3: I heard that USB 3.0 borrows technology heavily from the PCI Special Interests group. Is this true? No, not true. The USB 3.0 specification has not borrowed heavily from the PCI-SIG. As an industry leader, Intel routinely provides technologies and intellectual assets to the industry through participation in standards development organizations, special interest groups and other forums. For example, Intel has provided significant technical input on the PCI Express architecture developed in the PCI-SIG. Similarly, Intel has also provided significant technical input on the USB specifications developed by the various USB Promoter groups over the last decade, including USB 3.0. (Hint: read between the lines, we contributed to both).
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