USB 3.0 adoption is set to rocket this year, according to market research group In-Stat, which forecasts that close to 80 million devices shipped in 2011 will support the technology. Although price is not really a barrier at this point, with motherboards costing less than $100 supporting USB 3.0 already, the year-old standard will see a huge boost from the inclusion of a built-in controller on AMD's new Fusion chipsets.
These chipsets will sit alongside the recently launched A-Series processors, which AMD claims will make their way into more than 150 laptop and desktop designs in 2011. Notebook systems with the A4, A6, and A8 chips are expected to start at around $499, $599, and $699, respectively, and are seen as solid contenders to Intel's Sandy Bridge in the mainstream market.
Naturally, upcoming FX-Series processors will also support the USB 3.0-ready chipsets, and we imagine AMD would cover its existing Ontario and Zacate as well since they're used in compact, budget-oriented notebooks and nettops that could directly benefit from the savings of an embedded controller.
Intel plans to include USB 3.0 support in its 7-Series Panther Point chipset, due sometime during the first half of 2012 alongside its 22nm Ivy Bridge processors. There has been speculation that they delayed supporting USB 3.0 in order to push Thunderbolt. In April, however, the company began urging developers to target both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.
Thunderbolt's proposition is quite enticing indeed: two-way transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps, double the maximum throughput of USB 3.0, with the potential of scaling up to 100Gbps and eventually serving as a single universal replacement for current buses such as SATA or USB. But with billions of consumer devices shipping with USB support each year, Intel will have a hard time lifting this new standard from the ground.
So far only Apple has embraced the technology. While others are expected to follow, HP, the world's largest PC manufacturer has declared that it will not use Thunderbolt in new desktop PCs, and at least for the foreseeable future it will instead stick with USB 3.0 because of wider support.