| By Michael Lasky |
Promising explosive transfer rates — up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0 — USB 3.0 is making its appearance in new PCs, external hard drives, and other devices.
With these new USB 3.0–compatible products rolling out and the standard set, there are just two barriers to its widespread deployment: lack of support in PC chipsets and in the Windows OS.
Slow adoption of the next USB standard
The final specification for USB 3.0 was completed two years ago. But peripheral and PC vendors have been surprisingly slow to release 3.0-capable products. Why bother with USB 3.0, when there are billions of 2.0 devices in use that seemingly work well with (the rarely achieved) USB 2.0 480 Mbps transfer rates?
But the bigger roadblocks for USB 3.0 are Intel, AMD, and Microsoft. Intel and AMD have yet to release a 3.0 chipset for motherboards (although NEC does offer a chipset). Microsoft hasn’t added native support for the new standard into Windows — not even Windows 7. (However, USB 3.0 will work with Microsoft’s latest OS if you install the device drivers provided with USB 3.0–compatible devices.)
Neither Intel nor Microsoft can hold out for too long, however. The rapid progression of faster processors and larger-capacity storage devices, plus ever-more-voracious megapixel appetite of digital cameras has made USB 2.0 a data-transfer bottleneck. And there is a surge of 3.0 products issuing from a broad range of vendors, as noted by a USB Implementers trade group compliance forum.
Current rumors suggest that native USB 3.0 support in Windows will arrive in an upcoming Win7 Service Pack, available by the first quarter of 2011. And Intel may not release its 3.0 chipset until 2012 (bloggers speculate that the company wants to push its high-speed Light Peak technology).