Finalized speedy USB 3.0 spec debuts

Final USB 3.0 specifications are being released Monday.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
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.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

25GB in 70 seconds. That's the torrid transfer rate consumers can expect with devices based on the USB 3.0 specification, which debuted Monday.

USB 3.0 SuperSpeed logo as shown at WinHEC 2008
USB 3.0 SuperSpeed logo as shown at WinHEC 2008. Brooke Crothers

As reported previously, the USB Promoter Group finalized the "SuperSpeed" USB 3.0 specification today and is doing a "comprehensive review" of the technology at a conference in San Jose, Calif.

Intel, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, and NEC are the leading players in the group.

Among the initial devices, external solid-state (flash) drives and hard drives are expected to be popular. "The first SuperSpeed USB devices will likely include data storage devices such as flash (solid-state drives), external hard drives, digital music players, and digitial cameras," the group said.

Products aren't coming until 2010, however. "It is anticipated that initial SuperSpeed USB discrete controllers will appear in the second half of 2009 and consumer products will appear in 2010," according to the group.

"The USB 3.0 Promoter Group is now accepting adopters of the USB 3.0 specification, which has been finalized at the 1.0 level," the group added.

As its name (SuperSpeed) implies, USB 3.0 is all about speed. About 10 times more speed, to be exact, than the 2.0 specification.

Here's data from a slide that Microsoft showed at WinHEC 2008 on November 6:

Transfer of a 25GB HD movie:

  • USB 1.0: 9.3 hours
  • USB 2.0: 13.9 minutes
  • USB 3.0: 70 seconds

But the new specification is a long time in coming. USB 2.0 was launched almost eight years ago. At WinHEC, Microsoft expressed caution about USB 3.0 because finalization has taken so long. Because of delays, "we're challenged and we won't have support for USB 3.0 in Windows 7 at RTM (release to manufacturing)," Lars Giusti of Microsoft said earlier this month.

"If you look at the USB 3.0 industry timelines and checkpoints, it really has been a very long, difficult and challenging three-year effort," he added.

Currently, Microsoft is trying to figure out whether it should support USB 3.0 in Vista or just later operating systems.