Buy a board or system today, add Thunderbolt support later
Intel is obviously geeked about its Thunderbolt interface, the question is, are you? Thunderbolt has made some strides since it was first introduced -- it's present on all Apple Mac systems, there are over 100 Thunderbolt devices available, and the first Thunderbolt 2 systems were unveiled last month -- but it's not as widely available as, say, USB. To further promote the interface, Intel came up with the idea of enabling PC makers to offer Thunderbolt upgradeable motherboards within desktops and workstation systems.
It's an initiative called "Thunderbolt ready" and it entails using a Thunderbolt card, which can be added to any motherboard that includes a GPIO header (general purpose/input/output header).
"Even if your system doesn’t have Thunderbolt it is now possible to 'upgrade' to it. Users that are interested in adding Thunderbolt 2 technology to an existing Thunderbolt ready system can combine a Thunderbolt card with a growing number of enabled motherboards, all identified by the use of the 'Thunderbolt ready' moniker," Intel explains. "The Thunderbolt ready program makes it simple to identify which components work together to upgrade your PC with Thunderbolt 2 capability."
For the end-user, the upgrade is pretty simple. Just plug the Thunderbolt card into the designated PCI-E slot, connect a cable to the GPIO header, and use an available DisplayPort out connector from the motherboard processor graphics, or an external graphics card (depending on the system).