Sources: 'Light Peak' technology not Apple idea

Industry sources refute a report that claimed that a future fiber-optic technology was an Apple idea.

Industry sources are refuting a report claiming that a future fiber-optics technology was an Apple idea that was brought to Intel.

Intel's Jason Ziller showing miniaturized optical module
Intel's Jason Ziller showing 'miniaturized' optical module Intel

Light Peak was an Intel Labs project that the chipmaker was working on before anyone was thinking of using it, according to industry sources close to the issue. Light Peak can carry data at 10 gigabits per second in both directions simultaneously and Intel expects it will reach 100 gigabits per second in the next decade.

Engadget reported last week that Apple "brought the concept to Intel and asked them to create it." Apple did not respond to e-mail queries.

Intel showed the technology to third parties, got feedback, then incorporated the feedback into the next design. Apple is an innovating force in the industry and makes requests that nobody else does and that only helps innovation, the sources added.

Separately, on Tuesday, in an interview, Jason Ziller, director of Intel's optical input-output program office, spoke more about the technology that is expected to be used on future PCs and consumer electronics devices.

"We've been working on optical for many years. Specifically, this technology the last couple of years," he said. "We've developed the technology, we've developed the specifications, documenting the technology, and we have prototype product," he said.

Ziller said Intel will be supplying the core silicon for the technology. "Intel will be supplying the controller chip and then there's also an optical module that does the optical conversion. We developed the (optical module) technology and reference design and it's going to be manufactured by other third party optical manufacturers," he said.

Companies that will be involved in the optical module production and "everything around the module" include Foxconn, Foxlink, Avago, SAE, Iptronics, Corning, Elaser, and Ensphere, according to Intel.

"All of these components will be available next year," Ziller said. "The product that we're developing now, that we're ready to ship next year is based on our current specification. Because there is customer demand for that," he said.

Ziller said initially that products may appear that have both Light Peak and other connectors, such as USB, but that the ultimate goal is to have one single connector technology. "It doesn't change the track that electrical USB 3.0 is on. That's going to continue going forward. What Light Peak allows is that USB 3.0 and, or, other protocols could, down the road, be run over optical in this fashion," he said. USB 3.0 is the next-generation USB technology that would replace the current USB 2.X technology found on virtually all PCs today.

Ziller continued. "So, it complements existing electrical protocols and enhances them to run over optical, maybe over longer cables and also together on the same cable because Light Peak supports multiple protocols running simultaneously," he said. Other connector technologies include FireWire, DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI.

"In the future, these protocols could also run at higher speeds as they evolve over time," he added.

"We'll be evaluating and looking at it as it comes forward," said Jeff Ravencraft, the USB Implementers Forum president and chairman. "We'll continue to evaluate and work with Jason's team."

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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