Apple has been awarded a patent for a new hybrid connector that combines several high-speed data technologies onto a single 30-pin connector. Uncovered by Patently Apple, the connector would support USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and Dual-lane DisplayPort — now being referred to as “Thunderbolt.”
Thunderbolt is an effort between Intel and Apple, and is said to deliver transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps. USB 3.0 could be seen as a competing technology, but the Cupertino company seems to be preparing itself by developing a connector that could support both.
It should be noted that the said connector would be on the device itself. The ports for USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt are different: this means devices that wish to connect to either port would have to obviously ship with a separate cable for each.
Aiming to support both technologies from the beginning could be a smart move. Apple was out ahead of competitors when it worked to push FireWire as a next generation successor to the original USB standard. However, peripheral manufacturers instead chose USB 2.0, and FireWire was relegated to a small subset of devices, mainly intended for use with the Mac platform.
The patent images show the connector as part of an iOS device, which seems to be the most logical use for such a technology. With Apple’s focus seemingly now being in these accessory devices, having a system that allows syncing in a matter of seconds seems to make a lot of sense.
While USB 2.0 has sped up syncing, in the case of iOS devices the process can take upwards of a minute or more depending on the amount of data being transferred between the device and the computer.
However, it does appear as if Apple has much bigger plans for this new connector: the patent documents state that this would be an option on “future Mac hardware” as well. Indeed, Apple’s quite serious about Thunderbolt: it’s currently looking for a “Software Quality Engineer” that would be tasked with ensuring the quality of its hardware and software solutions that include the technology.