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Lenovo: USB 3.0 mainstream in 2012

A ThinkPad marketing executive sees USB 3.0 catching on in a big way. From here on out, many, if not most, PCs will sport the high-speed connector.

Lenovo's top product manager for the popular ThinkPad line says USB 3.0 will go mainstream in 2012, while Intel sees the new Thunderbolt interface gravitating to some high-end nonmainstream laptop models.

This week, Lenovo began selling its ThinkPad X1, a 0.85-inch thick (thickest point), 3.8-pound design based on Intel's "Sandy Bridge" Core i5 and i7 processors.

Beyond the obvious attractions of a svelte, high-powered laptop, the X1 also sports an increasingly popular USB port based on the "SuperSpeed" 3.0 specification. USB is one of the most widely used connection technologies in the world, found on everything from PCs to tablets to printers to smartphones. Peak speeds for USB 3.0 are about 10 times that of USB 2.0, the current standard.

"In 2012 USB 3.0 will be a mainstream technology," Jason Parrish, worldwide product manager for Lenovo ThinkPad, said in a phone interview earlier this week. "And we see 2011 as the transition year for USB 3.0 as it starts to come into more and more products," he added. Other companies seem to agree. Dell's upcoming XPS 15z will include two USB 3.0 ports.

Intel, for its part, has said its support chips--called chipsets--will include USB 3.0 in 2012.

The 13.3-inch ultrathin ThinkPad X1 includes a USB 3.0 port.  Many, if not most, laptops are expected to follow suit this year and next.
The 13.3-inch ultrathin ThinkPad X1 includes a USB 3.0 port. Many, if not most, laptops are expected to follow suit this year and next.

And what about Thunderbolt, Intel's new interface, now featured on Apple's MacBooks and iMacs? "It's definitely an interesting technology. It's clever to use the same connector as Mini Displayport," Parrish said.

He continued. "There's certainly not a desire to add more ports to a notebook, because it takes up space...We're talking to our customers...And assessing if Thunderbolt is the technology" they need.

Beyond today's MacBooks and iMacs, Intel sees Thunderbolt beginning life in the high-end consumer space--not in mainstream systems. "The ecosystem is nascent," said an Intel representative.

One market segment, for example, that may see Thunderbolt ports is ultrathin laptops, whose minimalist designs accommodate only a few connectors, the Intel representative said, echoing Parrish's comment above. Particularly, superthin designs that have thicknesses averaging about 0.7 inches.

Also see: USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt: Another standards battle in the making?