First USB 3.0 demos at IDF next week?

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Santa Clara (CA) – Intel today sent out a press release stating that its “Extensible Host Controller Interface (xHCI) draft specification revision 0.9 in support of the USB 3.0 architecture, also known as SuperSpeed USB” is now available. This move not only clears some confusion over claims that Intel may be withholding USB 3.0 specifications, but also indicates that we should be able to see first USB 3.0 demonstrations at next week’s IDF in San Francisco.

Intel’s xHCI debuts with USB 3.0 and provides hardware component designers, system builders and device driver developers with a description of the hardware/software interface between system software and the host controller hardware for USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 (previous versions are not supported). According to Intel, the xHCI draft specification provides a standardized method for USB 3.0 host controllers to communicate with the USB 3.0 software stack and is being made available under RAND-Z (royalty free) licensing terms to all USB 3.0 Promoter Group and contributor companies that sign an xHCI contributor agreement.

A revised xHCI 0.95 specification is planned to be made available in the fourth quarter of this year.

The release of the spec follows claims that Intel could be engaging in unfair business practices by withholding the spec and the company’s subsequent confirmations that the host controller standards would be made available in the second half of 2008 royalty-free - “free, gratis, unpaid, zero dollars, free of charge, at no cost, on the house.”

While Intel has kept its promise, the implications of the announcement are that the USB 3.0 technology is virtually finalized and product development can get into full gear. The timing of the announcement is a sign that USB 3.0 demonstrations could take place at Intel’s fall developer forum, which will open its doors on August 19. Commercial products are not expected to be released until late 2009.

When maxed out USB 3.0, will offer ten times the bandwidth of USB 2.0 – 4.8 Gb/s, which translates into a massive bandwidth of 600 MB/s.

Also noteworthy about Intel’s announcement is the fact that it got AMD to supply a quote for its press release. “The future of computing and consumer devices is increasingly visual and bandwidth intensive,” said Phil Eisler, AMD corporate vice president and general manager of the Chipset Business Unit. “Lifestyles filled with HD media and digital audio demand quick and universal data transfer. USB 3.0 is an answer to the future bandwidth need of the PC platform. AMD believes strongly in open industry standards, and therefore is supporting a common xHCI specification.”

Yes, it is one of those quotes you can easily live without. But read between the lines and the simple fact that AMD is quoted in an Intel press release should be indication enough that USB 3.0 is off to a good start. We also heard that Nvidia has signed the USB 3.0 agreement.

Two weeks ago, the IEEE said that it has approved the IEEE 1394-2008 specification, which increases the interface bandwidth of IEEE1394, also known as Firewire and i.Link, to 3.2 Gb/s.