We might be home from CES, but the coverage doesn’t stop with that.  While watching some NFL playoffs we began to think that there was something missing from the show this year…oh yah, remember Intel Light Peak? 

CES 2011: What was missing? Intel Light Peak - General Tech 4

Intel announced Light Peak at IDF in 2009 and then followed that up by talking up the technology pretty heavily at last year’s iteration of the Consumer Electronics Show.  At the 2011 CES we didn’t hear anything about the technology, see any devices actually utilizing it or even see any new Intel platforms with support for it.  Kind of odd, don’t you think?  Maybe we found out why: ComputerWorld says Intel talked about Light Peak only quickly and with some definite caveats. 

First, the good: Intel said “Light Peak is ready” and that implementations should start sometime “soon”.  The bad: it will be based on copper rather that fiber optics.  Yes, the data in Light Peak is actually going to be electrically carried over copper rather than through…you know, light. 

“The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought,” Perlmutter said. “Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive,” he added.

They didn’t mention what specific speeds this copper-based Light Peak technology would run at and what features would be left out because of the change.  Light Peak was originally touted as a 10 Gigabit / second technology but I think we are going to be quite a bit lower than that when this version is released.  USB 3.0, probably the best competition for Light Peak that is widely available and was showcased throughout CES, currently runs at about 4 Gbps over copper. 

We can’t help but wonder if Intel is reconsidering Light Peak all together based on the costs.  If the cables and connections are too expensive and too fragile to compete with the basics of USB, and the data transfer and features are competitive, a single standard would be much more valuable to the industry.  Fiber optic connections are still a large part of the future of technology communication but Intel might have been a bit too bullish. 

CES 2011: What was missing? Intel Light Peak - General Tech 5
This picture of a development Light Peak card was taken at last year’s CES

Light-based fiber connections are more expensive but offer advantages over copper including speeds and range – light can transmit further with less power than copper.  Light is less conducive to loss and interference from electromagnetic interference.  But for all the excitement that Light Peak created in 2009 and 2010, the first part of 2011 is more than disappointing. 

CES 2011: What was missing? Intel Light Peak - General Tech 6