If you're looking solely at transfer rates, the USB 3.0 specification – with its 5Gbps speeds – may be plenty fast, but it already can't push the same amount of raw data as, say, Thunderbolt. New specifications coming down the pipeline, like SATA Express and external PCIe, are promising speeds that flat-out blow USB 3.0 out of the water. The USB Promoter Group's aiming to stay in the race with an innovative tactic; rather than compete solely with transfer rates, they're also turning the familiar USB connection into the equivalent of a 100W power cord.
We know, plenty of devices can already be charged via a USB connection – we've seen those coffee warming devices on ThinkGeek, too. The new specification being developed by the group will be able to deliver up to 100 watts of power, though – enough to charge larger items like external HDDs. The USB 3.0 Promoter Group outlines several key features of the upcoming spec in its press release:
Compatible with existing cables and connectors
Enables voltage and current values to be negotiated over the USB power
Enables higher voltage and current in order to deliver power up to 100W
Switchable source of power delivery without changing cable direction
Coexists with USB Battery Charging 1.2 and works equally well with both
USB 2.0 and USB 3.0
"Charging the battery of a notebook PC, or simply powering that notebook PC while actively using the USB data connection, would be possible," Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman, explains. "Conceivably, a notebook PC could rely solely on a USB connection for its source of power.”
Don't expect your PC to power your laptop anytime soon, though; the new specification isn't even expected to head into the peer review stage until later this year. The Promoter Group hopes to start implementation of the standard early 2012.