Intel will eliminate Thunderbolt royalties to boost adoption

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Expect Thunderbolt to become more widespread soon.
Expect Thunderbolt to become more widespread soon.
Photo: Intel

Intel has confirmed plans to drop Thunderbolt royalties in an effort to boost adoption. The chip-maker also plans to integrate Thunderbolt 3 into its own processors starting next year, eliminating the need for a dedicated controller.

Thunderbolt has become the ultimate standard for connecting peripherals to your computer, thanks to its incredibly high bandwidth and versatility. Thunderbolt 3’s 40Gbps speeds let you transfer a full 4K movie in just 30 seconds.

There’s just one problem: Thunderbolt is expensive.

Every manufacturer that uses it has to pay royalties to Intel, which means you typically find it exclusively in expensive, high-end machines. Adoption has been boosted since Intel adopted the USB-C connector, but Thunderbolt is still not ubiquitous.

Intel hopes to change that by dropping those pricey royalties, giving any manufacturer who wishes to use it the freedom to do so without worrying about cost. The company will also integrate Thunderbolt 3 into its own CPUs as standard from 2018.

“We think the first thing is going to drive broader adoption and deployment of Thunderbolt 3 in PCs,” said Jason Ziller, Intel’s lead for Thunderbolt development, in an interview with Wired.

Ziller says integrating Thunderbolt into its own chips, negating the need for a separate controller, will also drive broader adoption in the ecosystem, leading to more Thunderbolt-compatible peripherals and other devices.

Apple adopted Thunderbolt soon after Intel debuted it. Its new MacBooks rely solely on Thunderbolt 3 for power and data, which can be transferred through a single port with a USB-C connector. It really is a do-it-all standard.

“Apple and Intel have collaborated on Thunderbolt from the beginning, and as the industry leader in its adoption, we applaud Intel’s efforts to integrate Thunderbolt technology into its CPUs and open it up to the rest of the industry,” said Apple’s Dan Riccio.

With royalty fees disappearing, you can expect Thunderbolt to become much more widespread. It will finally make its way into much more affordable desktops and laptops, and even more accessories.