Thunderbolt Worth the Wait?

It’s been over a year since Apple announced Thunderbolt support in the Mac. So far only a handful of Thunderbolt enabled devices have hit store shelfs. Why is this exciting and new technology taking so long to get into the hands of users? What is does the future of Thunderbolt entail? Is Thunderbolt all that it’s cracked up to be?

The future of the Mac Pro
The current model of Mac Pro was released on July 27, 2010, leaving a void in the professional market. One of the major reasons to buy a Mac Pro, other than for it’s shear power, was for expansion. Offering 4 PCIe cards, users could buy hardware to add functionality to their Mac Pro. With the looming questions about the of the future of the Mac Pro, professional Mac users are left between a rock and a hard spot.

Can Thunderbolt replace PCIe?
The short answer is no. Apple supported PCIe speeds of up to 16x in the Mac Pro. Thunderbolt can only support 4x. This is a major clamp in the speed for high end accessories. However the argument remains, how many users actually needed those speeds? And Apple is famous for accommodating the majority of users.

Why is Thunderbolt taking so long to come to market?
Thunderbolt is a new and exciting technology, but it’s truly bleeding edge. Documentation, parts and specs are scarce. This means that Apple and Intel engineers have to work with manufactures directly to get new products to market. Unlike many other interfaces, Thunderbolt devices must be approved by both Apple and Intel before they can be manufactured. We can equate this process to App store approval on a hardware level. Of course this process takes tremendous amounts of time.

Is Thunderbolt all that?
Thunderbolt is definitely something to watch out for. Right now it’s expensive and rare and it may not be worth the upgrade at this time. Because the technology is so new, many manufactures are having to make compromises to get products to market.