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Light Peak, iPad 2, MacBook Pros – The Rumor Mill is in Full Effect.

There’s just something about Apple products that gets the tech crowd gossiping like little old ladies at a church social. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a product refresh. Sometimes it’s something revolutionary. Sometimes it’s a big disappointment. Sometimes, it’s just hype. Whatever the case, as soon as there’s a hint of something new coming from Apple, the rumblings begin.

Apple really doesn’t help the problem. They know that the eyes of the tech industry are on them, so they use it to their advantage. Rumors of DARPA-level security, vague press “invitations”, and the occasional “leaked” photos or specs just fuel the hype machine. Sometimes it’s something revolutionary; sometimes it’s a big disappointment.

This time around, there seem to be three major topics people are talking about.

Light Peak

Over the last few years, we’ve seen FireWire 400 eliminated from Macs completely, while the number of FireWire 800 ports have been reducing. This slow phasing out of the high-speed connection begs the question “What’s going to replace it?”

For the past year or so in the PC world, it’s all been about USB 3.0. Unfortunately, last year’s Macs were still sporting USB 2.0 ports, even as FireWire ports dwindled. Unfortunately, in real-world practice, USB 2.0 doesn’t even make it to FireWire 400 speeds much of the time, especially when transferring large amounts of data.

However, Apple has been rumored to be actively supporting a new connection, Light Peak, which will have extremely high bandwidth, be daisy-chainable and replace almost (if not all) existing ports on your Mac. Eventually, it will be an optical interface, using light to transmit data, but reports say that initial Light Peak implementations will still use copper wires.

As Apple has been a supporter of the technology from early on in the game, it’s pretty likely we’ll be seeing Light Peak replacing many peripheral connections on our Macs – possibly sooner than later.

New MacBook Pros

It’s about the time for the annual refresh of the MacBook Pro line. Interestingly, the projected announcement date isn’t on a Tuesday like it usually is, but on a Thursday—this Thursday to be exact—to coincide with the birthday of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. The exact specifications of these new MacBook Pros are, of course, are not yet available, but there have been a couple of rumors floating about that have some basis in reality.

The first is that these MacBook Pros will sport the new “Sandy Bridge” processors, which offers up to a 17% performance increase over the “Nehalem” processors at the same clock speed.

The second rumor stems from reports that the new MacBook Pro’s case is “slightly changed”. Could this be the addition of a Light Peak port? If it is, it would be copper-based, rather than optical, but it would be a huge step forward on the peripheral front and would indicate that we would likely see it on other Macs down the line. I would expect there to still be at least a couple of legacy ports left, but if this shows up on the MacBook Pro, expect Apple to make it quite clear that Light Peak is the future and  ‘ya better stock up on the eventually-available adapters.

iPad 2

As far as peripherals go, nothing has taken off like the iPad has over the last year. You can’t look at any media outlet without running into a story somehow tied in to the iPad. Even OWC Radio isn’t immune to this – there seems to be at least one iPad-related story each episode.

So, as with the iPhone, iPods and most of Apple’s line of products, we look to the next annual update, which should be somewhere around April. However, there have been reports of production delays pushing this back to June.

While most of the proposed specs aren’t that surprising—lighter, thinner, front and rear cameras, a faster processor, better speakers—cases for the upcoming iPad 2 seem to have a “mystery port” on them. What could this port be? Some say it’s a connection so you can hook your TV up to your iPad, others say it’s some sort of SD or miniSD card slot, but any confirmation of what it actually is has not been forthcoming.

Dream a little dream.

Though it can grow a little tiresome, I think the rumor mill surrounding Apple is actually a good thing. It gives us the chance to both guess at what Jobs & Company will do next, but it also gives us a chance to dream a little. Light Peak on a Mac mini? 4.5GHz “Sandy Bridge”-based MacBook Pros? It’s all possible. Whether it is fact, however, only Apple knows.

In the meantime, I’m off to go get a Light Peak cable to hook the new MacBook Pro to the iPad 2….

OWC Chris S.
the authorOWC Chris S.
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  • I’ve been hearing about how great OWC’s products are and will be looking forward to your new thunderbolt drives early next year.

    Great to hear your planing to release thunderbolt products soon.

  • Back in March someone here asked when OWC will make HD enclosures with Thunderbolt. It’s now almost July – when can I buy a Mercury Pro with Thunderbolt, I’m waiting on this feature to make a purchase.

    • We currently are planning to offer our own brand name Thunderbolt equipped storage solutions in early 2012. Why the extended time frame? Just like how we took our time in developing our industry leading SSDs, we don’t rush into product areas until there is more evolution of the emerging technology…so we can offer the highest levels of performance, quality, and reliability.

      In the interim, we will be offering various third party (non-OWC) first generation Thunderbolt product in several weeks for those customers that can’t wait for the improvements we will ultimately provide.

      We applaud Apple for partnering with other technology providers, getting consumers excited about this latest data interface, and creating demand for Thunderbolt enabled products. The industry is in the very early stages of Thunderbolt developments and we’re excited to have the opportunity to be developing solutions with the next generation of data transfer performance.

  • Will currently produced OWC products such as the Mercury Rack Pro with eSata and FW800 connectors (but no Thunderbolt) be able to be upgraded by OWC to support a Thunderbolt connector?

    • Hi Will,

      I really can’t comment about specific products that may or may not be in development or how quickly those products will be released, but I can say that we are working bringing Thunderbolt equipped storage to market. Stay tuned to the blog, as once available, we would be announcing here first.

  • eSata on the imacs may still be necessary as I’ve read that ThunderBolt drives may not be bootable… and of course thunderbolt is still announce-ware without any solutions available now… I am waiting anxiously for the 2011 iMac refresh

  • Any idea how soon we might see Thunderbolt RAID enclosures? (with SATA III drives?) And any news on these mysterious Thunderbolt adapters?

    • Hey Brett..thanks for stopping by.
      We just don’t play in the vaporware realm….so all I can say at this point is we’ll likely have Thunderbolt equipped products on our site during 2011.

  • Light Peak/ Thunderbolt on an iMac may eliminate the need for a eSata port on an iMac ( OWC mod) … or usb 3.0 for that matter

    • You’re absolutely right Matt….now officially known as Thunderbolt, this interface offers up to 10Gb/s of throughput in both directions. Since eSATA speed is up to 3Gb/s… Thunderbolt is over 3X faster than eSATA. And check out the speed difference compared to other interfaces:
      up to 20 times faster than with USB 2.0
      more than 12 times faster than with FireWire 800.
      heck….it’s up to 2X faster than USB 3.0 (5Gb/s)
      Two 10Gb/s channels on the same connector mean you can daisychain multiple high-speed devices and run a high resolution display on one interface without any loss of performance.

    • Also keep in mind that while Thunderbolt is going to be fast-fast-fast, its inclusion on new Macs isn’t going to help those who bought an iMac last year. Those are the people who can still benefit from our current eSATA upgrade service.

      There are other factors that will come into play, too – things like availability of Thunderbolt-capable drives. If availablilty or cost makes Thunderbolt drives (or adapters) unattractive, widely-avaialable eSATA drives still remain as a viable alternative.

      I wouldn’t say it eliminates the need for a service; it just changes the market for said service a little bit. :-)

  • Apparently Apple is branding it ThunderBolt and piggy backing it over the MiniDisplayPort.

    When this hits the Mac mini, I’ll be waiting to try out the OWC ThunderBolt enclosure. :-)

  • I can’t want for the OWC “Penta” interface hard drive enclosures with LightPeak. :-)