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Intel USB 3.0 update resolves dispute with Nvidia, AMD

Rival chipmakers AMD and Nvidia step back from a threat to go their own way. The high-speed spec, due in 2009, is now 90 percent complete.

Intel has released a specification revision for next-generation USB 3.0 technology that resolves a dispute with Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices, which had threatened to develop their own USB 3.0 standard.

USB 3.0--also known as SuperSpeed USB--is a next-generation high-speed connection standard due in 2009. It is significant not only because all future PCs and devices will use connectors based on the standard but because it will offer 10 times the speed of USB 2.0--used in virtually all PCs introduced in the last few years--or roughly 5 gigabits per second.

On Wednesday, Intel released what it calls the Extensible Host Controller Interface (xHCI) draft specification revision 0.9 in support of the USB 3.0 architecture. The draft specification provides a standardized method for USB 3.0 hardware to communicate with USB 3.0-specific software.

"Interoperability among devices from multiple manufacturers is important for consumer adoption of SuperSpeed USB products," Intel said in a statement. The draft specification revision will make it easier to develop software support for the industry, according to Intel.

The updated specification is being made available under royalty free licensing terms to all USB 3.0 Promoter Group and contributor companies "that sign an xHCI contributor agreement," Intel said.

A statement from Advanced Micro Devices was included in the announcement: "USB 3.0 is an answer to the future bandwidth need of the PC platform. AMD believes strongly in open industry standards, and therefore is supporting a common xHCI specification."

Microsoft and Dell also voiced support.

Nvidia and AMD had claimed previously that Intel was not giving the specification to companies that compete with Intel in the processor and chipset business and both companies had threatened to develop their own USB 3.0 specification. Intel, at that time, denied that it was withholding the specification.

Now the dispute is resolved--however tenuously--allowing the USB 3.0 specification to go forward. "They have both signed the agreement to use our spec instead...and will not develop and alternate version," an Intel spokesperson said Tuesday. The fact that AMD and Nvidia will not pursue a separate specification would, in effect, resolve the dispute.

AMD's support came with a qualifier, however. "Its a shame that it took the reality of an alternative spec to make this come true. Intel should have opened it up without this. One has to question a monopolist leading a spec like this in the future," a source close to AMD said.

Intel said it plans to make available a revised xHCI 0.95 specification in the fourth quarter. The updated revision of the specification will also be released under royalty-free licensing terms via an xHCI adopter's agreement.

Intel said the specification is "90 percent" complete at this point.

More here.