USB 3.0: Finally Set for Its Day in the Sun?

Sometimes, technologies that are ready for prime time don’t arrive in official, finalized form for ages. For example, although many of us have been using high-speed Draft 802.11n Wi-Fi technology for years now, it was only a few days ago that the IEEE officially ratified the 802.11n spec. Likewise, USB 3.0, or SuperSpeed USB has been working technically well for a long time now, but hasn’t arrived for widespread use in products. (If you want to learn more about USB 3.0, see Stacey’s post over on GigaOM, “Everything You Need to Know About USB 3.0.“) There are some strong signs that that is about to change, and the true arrival of USB 3.0 could change the way you work in many ways — for the better.

All the way back in August of last year, I wrote a post on the delivery of the final specification of USB 3.0, and how it would soon usher in many new conveniences. “Soon” turned out to be jumping the gun, and I’m still waiting for some of the USB 3.0-enabled devices that I want to arrive. Now it looks like we’ll see product development start in earnest.

As CNET reports, next week’s Intel Developer Forum (s intc) will include several USB 3.0-capable devices. They include a Fujitsu laptop that will exchange data with an external USB drive from Buffalo Technology, and a high-performance  digital video camera from Point Grey Research capable of streaming 1080p high-definition video at 60 frames per second to a computer.

It’s easy to underestimate how much impact a connectivity technology like this can have on all of us. I clearly remember when USB 2.0 took off, suddenly ushering in many new types of audio, video and storage devices. However, the data transfer speed improvements in USB 2.0 over the original USB technology were not tremendous.

That’s hardly true for USB 3.0, which boosts data transfer rates 10 times over current USB technology. Cameras — video and still — will take on many new conveniences, allowing users to stream content very quickly to computers. Backing up data to external USB storage devices will speed up tremendously, and there are even other benefits expected from USB 3.0. For example, simple downloading and uploading will speed up significantly. USB 3.0, unlike version 2.0, is bi-directional, meaning that it can send and receive data at the same time. Additionally, USB 3.0 is targeted to allow peripheral devices plugged into, say, a laptop to suffer fewer charge drains. Devices being charged while plugged into a USB port will also charge faster.

CNET and others expect that a big wave of USB 3.0 devices could be upon us before the end of the year — worth keeping in mind as you start preparing your holiday wish list.

What benefits are you hoping USB 3.0 will bring?