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Intel delivers USB 3.0 in its chips, finally

It took about 10 years, but the chip giant finally puts the next-gen USB technology in its silicon.

In Silicon Valley time, it's been eons but USB 3.0 support has finally landed in Intel chips.

Intel -- somewhat stealthily -- announced today that its 7-series chipset family is now available and "shipping in mobile and desktop OEM systems and motherboards worldwide...[and] they also integrate USB 3.0."

The new chipsets -- companion silicon to the main processor -- support both 2nd Generation Intel Core processors, aka Sandy Bridge, and 3rd Generation Intel Core chips, aka Ivy Bridge.

With today's announcement of availability, it's been roughly ten years since Intel announced support for USB 2.0.

Intel's Ivy Bridge processor announcement is due later this month.
Intel's Ivy Bridge processor announcement is due later this month. Intel

USB is one of the most widely used connection technologies in the world, found on everything from Windows and Apple computers to tablets and smartphones. Intel laid the groundwork for widespread adoption in spring 2002 when it put the technology in its silicon. USB 3.0 is about 10 times faster than current USB technology.

By including support in its chipsets, Intel will likely make USB 3.0 ubiquitous. Basically any Windows 8 Ivy Bridge PC -- laptop or desktop -- will come standard with USB 3.0. That said, many Sandy Bridge-based systems today have USB 3.0, but it's not yet ubiquitous like USB 2.0.

Which raises the question, will Ivy Bridge-based MacBooks get USB 3.0? It's likely.

And remember USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt -- formerly known by its codename Light Peak -- are different technologies but not necessarily mutually exclusive. Thunderbolt combines high-speed data transfer and high-definition video on a single cable and does transfers at up to 10Gbps. Currently, the most high-profile application of Thunderbolt is on MacBooks and Macs. Those Apple Thunderbolt ports are based on two technologies: PCI Express and DisplayPort.

The Intel 7-series chipsets also support Intel Smart Response, Intel Smart Connect, and Intel Rapid Start in desktop and mobile platforms, the company said. All three of those technologies are targeted at making PCs more like tablets and smartphones, which come out of standby instantly and are always connected.