Thunderbolt USB Flash Drives – HP Decision Muddies the Waters

In February this year Intel announced a new High Speed technology called Thunderbolt™  - PC’s and Macs that support “Thunderbolt” will benefit from data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps which put simply will enable the transfer of a full-length HD movie in around 30 seconds!

Thunderbolt VS USB 3.0 Thunderbolt VS USB 3.0

Thunderbolt has been a joint development with Apple so it came as no surprise that its first appearance was in the new MacBook Pro series that was announced at the same time.

Considering that USB 3.0 is only just beginning to reach the market the announcement of Thunderbolt took many by surprise and raised doubts over what will emerge as the dominant standard for peripherals and data transfer – the spectre of another VHS Vs Betamax struggle is not something the industry really needs just now.

Whilst USB 3.0 products are backwards compatible with USB 2.0, Thunderbolt is completely different (different cables, different connectors and completely different protocol) so USB products, including USB flash drives will not work with Thunderbolt.

USB 3.0 flash drives are only now beginning to appear on the market and are still carrying quite a hefty “early adopter” premium. Whether Thunderbolt will or can spawn an equivalent to a USB flash drive is not clear but a Thunderbolt Flash Drive with data transfer speeds of 10Gbps would revolutionise the portable data storage space.

BUT, The announcement this week by Hewlett-Packard (the worlds largest producer of PC’s) that it considered using Intel's Thunderbolt but is sticking with USB 3.0 because of wider support has further confused the market. HP has not ruled Thunderbolt out completely instead saying, "We did look at [Thunderbolt]. We're still looking into it. Haven't found a value proposition yet."

So, with HP now having gone away to try and work out what the “value proposition” is the market is fractured around two emerging technologies. Not ideal and undoubtedly there will be winners and losers as this plays out. For now it’s just a matter of “watch this space”.

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