NAB 2012 news: Optical Thunderbolt cables for PC now available

With Apple’s year of exclusivity coming to its end, Thunderbolt is set to make its way to the PC market. By far the strongest evidence of this we’ve seen so far is Sumitomo’s NAB exhibit, which features a Thunderbolt cable connecting an IBM ThinkPad to a LaCie Little Big Disk, with a monitor daisy chained off the back (we didn’t manage to get a snap of that, though).

Thunderbolt ThinkPadAs if the idea of PC Thunderbolt wasn’t exciting enough, these cables are also optical, so they can be far longer and we can look forward to seeing that 10Gbps data rate at work on long distance transmissions. Sumitomo’s initial sample run includes lengths up to 20m, all of which use the same interface as the existing generation of Thunderbolt cables – the connector will be slightly longer, but no thicker.

(Quick update: We’ve just got word that the 10, 20 and 30 metre cables Sumimoto are developing are optical, while shorter lengths will be electrical. There are no power-over-optical cables currently in development.)

Another plus Sumitomo are keen to emphasise is the enhance “flexural strength” of optical cables. Despite their relative slimness (they’re no bigger than the existing cables) the optical Thunderbolt cables can be bent at a 180 degree angle or tangled in knots without breaking, meaning we could soon be seeing them on consumer devices.

There’s no word on UK pricing or ship dates just yet, but the Japanese iteration of Amazon has them at ¥4200 for a metre cable, which is slightly cheaper than Apple are selling the current cables for.

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