USB 3.0 will not see widespread adoption until at least late 2011 because of lack of direct support from Intel. As a result, the new standard may not become as prevalent this decade as USB 2.0 has been through most of the past decade.
The current USB standard, which is found on almost all mainstream gadgets today, has been around a long time. USB 2.0 was first available as far back as 2001 and Intel laid the groundwork for widespread use on PCs and devices in spring 2002 when it put the technology in its silicon.
Eight years later, the advantages of moving to a faster standard, USB 3.0, are clear (for devices like digital cameras, camcorders, and hard drives): transfer rates jump from 480 megabits per second to 5 gigabits per second--which is more than a 10-fold increase in speed. And as this CNET Review of a USB 3.0 Seagate external hard disk indicates, it can make a big difference: the Seagate drive was the "fastest USB external hard drive to date," according to CNET Labs.
But without direct support in Intel's silicon, it's a chicken-and-egg dilemma. The result: mass adoption of USB 3.0 by PC makers is unlikely.
"The real sweet spot of a new version of USB comes when it is integrated into the chipset of the PC," said Brian O'Rourke, an analyst at In-Stat. "That's when USB becomes mainstream...By integrating it into its chipsets, Intel essentially allows PC OEMs to offer that new flavor of USB for free," he said.
But Intel is not expected to put USB 3.0 in its silicon until 2011, according to O'Rourke. That means the interval between the initial introduction of USB 3.0 by NEC in May 2009 and Intel's adoption will be much longer than the transition was in 2001-2002. "In this go-round, it's going to be about two and a half years instead of a year," said O'Rourke, who also writes about this in a blog entitled "Transition to SuperSpeed USB Will Be Slow."
In an interview last month in Heise Online, an Intel representative said that USB 3.0 wouldn't become mainstream until… Read more