Apple and Intel put the nails in Thunderbolt’s coffin

It is starting to look like Intel’s and Apple’s plan to kill off firewire and USB with Thunderbolt is grinding into a Titanic iceberg.

It all seemed too good to be true. Intel and Apple had winning technology which was much faster than anything else on the market.

While USB 2.0 was followed by USB 3.0, which allowed data to be transferred at speeds of up to five gigabits per second, Thunderbolt could top that.

Thunderbolt was being seen in Apple gear including the MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini and MacBook Air. Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Asus have also developed machines that use Thunderbolt.

But that is where the technology ground to a halt.

USB 3.0 has become practically universal and appeared in notebooks and desktops from every manufacturer, including Dell, Sony, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Asus.

Apple has sheepishly started adding USB 3.0 to its machines, even while it says that Thunderbolt is superior.

Part of the problem is that Intel relied too much on Apple, which had no particular interest in keeping the cost of the products down. This resulted in technology that was far too expensive for most punters to be bothered with.

For example, you can pick up a 1TB, USB 3.0-supported hard drive for less than $100 which is nearly half the cost of a 1TB Thunderbolt hard drive.

AMD is about to stick its oar in and will probably kill off the Thunderbolt completely.

AMD wants to release a low-cost Thunderbolt competitor in 2013 which it has dubbed Lightning Bolt. The technology was unveiled last year and while some argue about its superiority, it does mean that there will be more alternatives to Thunderbolt which are much cheaper.

Then there is the news that developers are trying to increase the USB 3.0 transfer speeds from 5Gbps to 10Gbps. If this can be achieved, it will eliminate one of Thunderbolt’s key advantages.

What Intel and Apple should have done, if they wanted the technology to gain any traction, was to subsidise the early work on Thunderbolt until it had a market presence. But Apple was too keen to make an outrageous mark up on Thunderbolt peripherals which only its limited fanbase was stupid enough to pay for.

As a result, Thunderbolt is going to be as dead as a dodo as a flood of cheaper technology hits the market and Apple and Intel will be left with nothing for their efforts.