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11/18/2008
02:32 PM
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SuperSpeed USB Spec Completed

USB 3.0, expected to hit the market in 2009, is expected to be up to 10 times faster than Hi-Speed USB.

The SuperSpeed USB specification, officially called USB 3.0, has been completed, paving the way for manufacturers using the popular connector technology to significantly boost data-transfer rates between devices.

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group released the final spec Monday at the SuperSpeed USB Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif. The specification, a technical road map for manufacturers to follow in bringing USB 3.0 to market, now goes to the USB Implementers Forum, which is the managing body for USB specifications.

USB connectors are used to attach peripherals, such as printers, external hard drives, and portable media players, to a PC. The latest spec has a data-transfer rate of up to 5 Gbps, which the Promoter Group says is up to 10 times faster than Hi-Speed USB, officially called USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0 devices.

USB 3.0 is expected to help consumers increasingly using large digital files, such as video. "Today's consumers are using rich media and large digital files that need to be easily and quickly transferred from PCs to devices and vice versa," Jeff Ravencraft, president and chairman of the Implementers Forum, said in a statement. "SuperSpeed USB meets the needs of everyone from the tech-savvy executive to the average home user."

The Promoter Group anticipates USB 3.0 discrete controllers to reach the market in the second half of next year, followed by products incorporating the technology in 2010. A USB controller is an expansion card or hardware built into a PC motherboard for communications between the operating system and the peripheral device.

The first devices offering USB 3.0 connectors are likely to be flash drives, external hard drives, digital music players, and digital cameras, the Promoter Group said. Besides the higher data speeds, the specification, which can be downloaded from the Web, also offers better power efficiency.

Members of the Promoter Group include Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, and Texas Instruments. Nonmember contributors include Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia.

The development of USB 3.0 has not been without controversy. In June, Intel addressed what it called "speculation" on tech Web sites that it was creating USB 3.0 itself and that the specification borrowed heavily from technology developed by the PCI Special Interest Group, which developed the PCI Express architecture used in attaching graphics cards and other components to motherboards. Intel, which is also a member of the PCI group, denied both allegations.

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