Apple and Intel may be pushing Light Peak (aka Thunderbolt) technology forward as a true next-gen USB replacement, but that doesn't mean the latter will die so easily. The USB 3.0 Promoter Group is working on a new specification that will have USB 2.0 and 3.0 connections delivering up to 100 watts of power.

You may ask, how is this useful?

We could virtually power anything using a USB port. We already charge devices like smartphones and tablets using USB, and that's possible because the 4.5 watts delivered through current cables is sufficient. Now think about charging your laptop using USB, or more to the point, solely relying on USB connectivity to power your laptop at all times. Transmitting data simultaneously is part of the specification as well.

Key features of USB Power Delivery include:

  • Compatibillity with existing cables and connectors
  • Enables voltage and current values to be negotiated over the USB power pins
  • Enables higher voltage and current in order to deliver power up to 100W
  • Switchable source of power delivery without changing cable direction
  • Coexists with USB Battery Charging 1.2 and works equally well with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0

A demonstration of the technology is expected by the end of the year, with a final revision of the specification to be delivered to the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) for publication and establishment sometime in 2012. As ExtremeTech likes to point out, just as Apple's exclusive rights over Thunderbolt expire in spring 2012.