Hardware, Software Programs

Windows 8 to bring Improved USB 3.0 Support


USB 3.0 has actually been out for quite some time. Most of the computers that run USB 3.0 right now are actually running it thanks to a little chip made by Renesas (formerly known as NEC Electronics). This controller was originally announced back on May 18th of 2009, over two years ago. Since then, these little chips have been found in millions of motherboards. For those unaware of the benefits between USB 2.0 and 3.0 the simple comparison of speed should be an easy understanding of the jump in speed. USB 2.0 has a maximum throughput of 480 Megabits/s or 60 MegaBytes/s this is in stark contrast to USB 3.0 which is capable of 5 Gigabits/s or 625MB/s. Doing the math, this represents an increase of bandwidth of almost 10X. This means that people will spend less time waiting for things to transfer via USB and more time enjoying those things. Although Apple/Intel?s Thunderbolt interface is capable of of 10 Gigabits (2x faster than USB 3.0), it is tied to a video port and cannot be used at the same time as an external display. Furthermore, it is extremely proprietary and as a result not many devices can utilize it nor are there many thunderbolt devices available.

Normally, something like USB would be expected to come out of a company like Intel or AMD, but Intel for reasons that remain unknown still hasn?t included USB 3.0 in its chipsets. They were even responsible for the original creation of USB itself, and yet to this day they do not have native USB 3.0 in their motherboard chipsets. This is in stark contrast to their competitor, AMD, who already has USB 3.0 native in some of their motherboard chipsets. Because of this slow or lack of adoption, Renesas has been able to ship over 30 million USB 3.0 controllers in the past 2 years. Because of this, it has mostly remained an interface that only enthusiasts are aware of and able to utilize. This is a very large number for a new technology, but the problem is that there are currently almost 4 billion USB devices out there and the vast majorities are USB 2.0 and 1.1. Because of this lack of market share, Microsoft hadn?t really put too much effort to include such support into Windows 7.

This lack of native support brings us to a new problem, there isn?t any native support inside of Windows for USB 3.0 and as a result there are some performance issues that need to be resolved. Microsoft forecasts that the adoption of USB 3.0 will likely reach 100% by 2015 and as a result wants to integrate USB 3.0 into Windows 8 as a native feature. Perhaps by then Intel will be on the USB 3.0 train and will help the adoption rate of USB 3.0.

This is in stark contrast to the external hard drive manufacturers which have nearly 100% USB 3.0 penetration within their product lines already. They have been doing everything within their power to push the adoption rate of USB 3.0, the only problem was that USB 3.0 speeds cannot be attained unless both the computer and the peripheral have USB 3.0.

Because of all of this anticipated momentum, Microsoft is announcing that they will be improving their support for USB 3.0 as a part of Windows 8 and will be working with hardware manufacturers to make sure that their devices work with Windows 8 at whatever their full capability may be (hopefully 5 Gbit/s). Microsoft even included a small video with their blog post detailing the differences between USB 2.0 and 3.0 as well as the speed benefits of switching to USB 3.0.