Intel Announces USB 3.0 Controller Spec

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Hoping to avert a possible "fork" over forthcoming high-speed USB 3.0 technology, Intel has announced version 0.9 of its USB 3.0 Extensible Host Controller Interface (xHCI). The controller spec provides a standardized method for USB 3.0 controllers—the kinds of things that will eventually be build into everything from hard drives to cameras to audio gear to media players—to talk to each other. And, of course, USB 3.0 is faster than existing USB 2.0 connections…up to 10 times faster.

The announcement should avert a threatened divergence over USB 3.0 technology. Back in June, companies like AMD, Nvidia, and Via technologies had complained that Intel was dragging its feet on the USB 3.0 controller specification, seeking to gain an unfair advantage in getting the technology to market. Intel claimed that wasn’t the case: it was just part of a consortium trying to nail down the USB 3.0 spec, and it couldn’t complete a controller design—a guide to making the actual silicon and components to support USB 3.0—until USB 3.0 was itself baked and done. AMD and others were dubious, and mulled spinning off their own "open USB 3.0" technology so they could get started making controllers.

The hatchet seems to be buried, however, with AMD’s corporate VP and general manager for chipsets Phil Eisler saying in an Intel press release: "Lifestyles filled with HD media and digital audio demand quick and universal data transfer. USB 3.0 is an answer to the future bandwidth need of the PC platform. AMD believes strongly in open industry standards, and therefore is supporting a common xHCI specification."

USB 3 devices should start reaching the marketplace in 2009.