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Up to speed with Thunderbolt (week in review)

Intel's new data-transfer technology is launched first in Apple's updated MacBook Pro. Also: there will be no public plan for succession at Apple.

Intel's long-awaited Light Peak technology, now known formally as Thunderbolt, is finally available on its first consumer device, and the company unveiled more details about when it will show up elsewhere.

First unveiled at the Intel Developer Forum back in 2009, the data transfer tech promises to replace a handful of ports with one that can handle more tasks and do them faster.

Code-named Light Peak, the current copper-based generation of Thunderbolt boasts 10Gbps data transfer speeds between computers and devices--that is, twice the speed of current USB 3.0 throughput. Future iterations of the specification are expected to move from copper wire to a fiber-optic connection, which Intel has said could one day allow for throughput rates up to 100Gbps.

Thunderbolt can transmit both raw data and audio-video information simultaneously, using existing DisplayPort and PCI-Express data protocols. With each Thunderbolt port having two data transmission channels, the technology can transmit and receive data at the same time--and at its top speed.

To help readers better understand the technology and why it matters, CNET has put together an FAQ.

Meanwhile, after weeks of rumors, leaks, and anecdotal evidence, Apple announced updates to its popular MacBook Pro line of laptops. The biggest changes are all under the hood, as first reported on CNET. The entire line now offers Intel's latest Sandy Bridge CPUs, which debuted last month, and Intel's Thunderbolt technology.
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