Where are the Thunderbolt products?

Where are the Thunderbolt products?

Summary: Several commenters on yesterday's Thunderbolt vs. USB 3.0 post stated that there are no Thunderbolt products. In fact, there are hundreds of Thunderbolt products. You just can't afford them.

TOPICS: Storage

With prices ranging up to $7,000, these are products for skilled professionals, not hobbyists. Let's take a look at some of them.

AJA, a respected name in video production, offers a solid-state 4k video recorder for $4000 that isn't at Best Buy. Apogee Electronics offers a 64 channel Thunderbridge connection option for their multi-k dollar Symphony I/O series of audio preamps and A/D converters.

Avid, makers of the popular ProTools, offers a variety of analog I/O to Thunderbolt interface bundles that range in price up to $7000. Blackmagic Design, known for a wide range of lower-cost video products, offers a couple of $3k cameras, 3-D video capture systems, and a variety of other A/V interfaces that run natively on Thunderbolt.

Matrox, another vendor popular in video production, offers a variety of video interface converters as well as Thunderbolt docks. Mlogic, Sonnet, and Magma offer PCIe card cages so even the smallest Mac can support high-powered video or other specialized cards.

And there are dozens of Thunderbolt storage systems and devices ranging from empty cases up to large RAID arrays. Many, like the Drobo Mini, are designed for mobile pros.

But once you get back to the office with your tricked out Thunderbolt notebook, you're still covered. ATTO offers  Thunderbolt to Fibre Channel and Ethernet connections, while Belkin and others offer Thunderbolt docking stations.

And while every Mac - except the long-overdue-for-a-major upgrade Mac Pro - runs Thunderbolt, so do notebooks from Acer, ASUS and Lenovo. But Apple is all-in for Thunderbolt, another reason it owns the over $1k PC market.

The Storage Bits take

For professionals time is money. If a product saves them a few $250 hours, improves their quality, reduces their stress, or impresses clients, it's worth it.

And Thunderbolt enables some amazing feats. How about editing 4k video - 12 megapixels per frame - on a 3 pound MacBook Air? Most desktops can't even play 4k video.

USB is cheap and ubiquitous, and USB 3.0 is plenty fast enough for casual users. But professionals have more specialized and demanding requirements.

Which is why professionals will continue to rely on Thunderbolt products.

Comments welcome! Ironic that the 4k editing MacBook Air was running Windows.

Topic: Storage

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  • This post I can agree with

    Yes Robin, I agree. In other words, Thunderbolt is Firewire 2. Any predictions on whether Thunderbolt will be able to avoid Firewire's fate?
    • I see a slightly different analogy

      I see Thunderbolt as SCSI and USB as IDE. SCSI did (and to some extent still does, though it's waning fast) enjoy a good run in the server market, though it was always too expensive for the desktop market. IDE (which begat ATA then SATA) always ruled the desktop market because it was cheap and more than good enough for that market's needs.
      Michael Kelly
      • Except SCSI was never pushed in the consumer market

        At least I don't believe it was. Was it ever even really pushed in the PC market? As you said, it was more of a server technology.

        For a while though, Firewire was on ipods and consumer video cameras. It also eventually found its way onto less and less expensive computers (though not sure if it ever made it to the really budget PCs, don't believe it did).

        Thunderbolt is clearly being pushed to the mid to upper end of the consumer market, just like Firewire was. It is a PC technology, not a server technology. In fact, I'm not even sure if Thunderbolt is the least bit appropriate for servers.

        So SCSI was a success at exactly what it was intended to be. Firewire, while seeing success in a niche market, was a failure in the larger market that apple wanted it to capture.
        • SCSI scanners were pushed

          Obviously once USB came around that dealt a blow and once USB2 came out it was all over for SCSI peripherals. But they were pushed at the higher end of the consumer market as Thunderbolt is now. I owned one because it was the only type of interface that could handle bulk scanning with reasonable speed at the time.
          Michael Kelly
          • Huh, I didn't know that

            I do remember scanning with USB 1 and how painfully slow it was. Ugh.
          • That's true.

            My first scanner was SCSI, too. By the time you added a SCSI board to your PC, the price went up, but still the best way to go.

            If Thunderbolt is the best way to go in certain applications, then it'll still be around for some time.
            William Farrel
        • Also I just remembered

          Didn't the Macs of the early 1990s use SCSI?
          Michael Kelly
          • Yes, they did; ALL of Macintoshes were with SCSI in 1990s before Jobs

            The subject.
        • SCSI never ...

          You are apparently too young to remember parallel SCSI. Or you are probably too cheap to know SAS.

          Thunderbolt is what it is. An extension of the CPU bus, not a general purpose bus. Therefore is is different from SCSI, USB, FireWire etc.
          • You should tell that to Robin

            "Therefore is is different from SCSI, USB, FireWire etc."

            We started down this rabbit hole because Robin was trying to convince us that USB shouldn't be improved because it will never be as good as Intel's Thunderbolt. If they can't be compared though, as you are suggesting, then tell that to Robin.

            "You are apparently too young to remember parallel SCSI"

            Perhaps. I will be the first to admit that I have next to no experience with SCSI although I do have a fair amount of experience with consumer grade computers of that era. This is why I felt that SCSI was not targeted to consumers because it was not targeted to me.

            I have since been informed of my mistake and I am grateful for that. Thanks to all who have informed me that SCSI was a consumer market product.
          • SCSI

            SCSI is a standard, neither consumer or professional grade product.

            There were consumer products and professional products that utilized SCSI.

            Just as there are today, consumer and professional products that utilize Thunderbolt.

            By the way, the absolutely brilliant and dirt cheap (considering your beliefs) Thunderbolt product comes from ... Apple: the $29 Thunderbolt-to-FireWire adapter. Jewel.
          • telling Robin

            Everyone, including Robin is reading what I post. Or what you post. :)
  • Which fate do you mean?

    Hundreds of thousands of pros use FireWire to this day, quite happily. Just because a market isn't huge doesn't mean that specialized vendors can't make a very good living from it.

    With Thunderbolt's Intel road map to 100Gb/s by 2020, I predict that Thunderbolt will be even more successful than FireWire.

    R Harris
    • This was clearly not apple's intention with firewire

      "Just because a market isn't huge doesn't mean that specialized vendors can't make a very good living from it."

      Firewire is a product that apple tried to push into the consumer market with the ipod and consumer video cameras. apple's push failed. Firewire lost big time to USB in the consumer market. Yes, Firewire has seen success in the niche market but that wasn't the plan, that is what apple had to settle for.

      So my question is: do you think Thunderbolt will be more successful in the consumer market than firewire was? I don't but if you disagree, and can support it, I'd be very happy to read it.

      The irony is that Thunderbolt is a truck, USB is a car. Does that ring a bell?
      • Your history is wrong

        Apple was the 1st major vendor to commit to USB 1.0 on the candy-colored iMacs as a replacement for the Apple Desktop Bus, an earlier serial interface. More importantly, Apple isn't asking buyers to choose between Thunderbolt and USB 3.0: both come on new Macs.

        I don't see any evidence that Apple is trying to "push" Thunderbolt into the consumer market. What they are doing is using Thunderbolt as a proof point of their product superiority: look at what you can do with Thunderbolt! Most Mac buyers will probably never own a Thunderbolt peripheral - they'll just use it as DisplayPort for external monitors - but the functionality will help keep resale prices high and professionals in the Mac camp.

        R Harris
        • There can be only 1?

          "Apple was the 1st major vendor to commit to USB 1.0"

          So? That in no way refutes the fact that the first ipods were exclusively firewire. Unless you want to make the argument that ipods aren't consumer devices?

          "What they are doing is using Thunderbolt as a proof point of their product superiority"

          That's a bit silly considering that you wrote that Acer, Asus, and Lenovo support Intel's Thunderbolt. This is not an apple technology. Thunderbolt doesn't prove anything about apple's superiority.

          "professionals in the Mac camp."

          And in the Acer, Asus, and Lenovo camp.

          However, I'm glad we can agree on one thing. Thunderbolt is not a consumer technology. You can claim that it was never intended to be and I can claim otherwise. Ultimately, it really doesn't matter. Thunderbolt is a non issue for 99.5% of users out there.
          • If you aren't, you ought to be embarrassed

            for not knowing why the first iPods were firewire and not USB. The answer is one of the reasons the iPod took over the MP3 market, and was a key reason why the iPod didn't suck like all other MP3 players of the time.
          • @baggins_z: TB3 knows that USB was damn slow and could not charge device ..

            ... quickly enough -- he is just trolling.
          • I know exactly why firewire was used

            Now, want to try a line of argument that will actually disprove what I said? Here, I'll requote it for you:
            "Firewire is a product that apple tried to push into the consumer market with the ipod and consumer video cameras. apple's push failed. Firewire lost big time to USB in the consumer market."

            At no point did I ever say firewire was inferior to USB. It wasn't. It was significantly more expensive than USB but it wasn't inferior. I didn't chastise apple for using it in the original ipod. I didn't say it was the wrong thing to do. I know you hate me and that's okay but try not to let your rage at my existence blind you to what I actually write.

            apple tried to push firewire to the consumer market. They had big licensing $$$ in their eyes. They stood to profit BIG TIME if firewire was widely adopted. apple failed. It was not widely adopted by the consumer market. It failed there. Big time. Deal with it. apple has had lots of failures. That was just one of them. No big deal.
          • junk

            Don't let you hate for Apple make you sound like fool.

            FireWire existed for Apple before and independently of the iPod. Considering that Apple sells computers mostly to consumers... What you think your point is?

            Even today, FireWire continues to be better interface bus than USB. For consumers too.

            By the way, when was the last time you used FireWire? Or SCSI/SAS, or Thunderbolt?