Intel is developing a would-be standard docking connector for Ultrabooks. The technology is based on its Thunderbolt bus. The spec, revealed by VR-Zone, calls for a chunky plug that combines a mini Thunderbolt port and a proprietary connector for power and other data buses. What vendors connect the other end to is up to them: …
"The notion is that such tech will make slimline Ultrabooks with fewer ports than a full-size laptop more attractive."
(Examines linked article...)
Not with a wart like that on the side, they won't be.
They really need this to work
Almost every person in my work who has a laptop has a docking station for them. If they want this to take off in business a docking station for such a threadbare laptop is essential.
Will this be compatible with any Apple hardware?
No. Apple already have a elegant solution shipping in products.
Their solution envisages the display as the docking station. The cable splits into two with a Magsafe power adaptor and Thunderbolt cable on the end.
This is considerably smaller - the laptop in any case needs both the Mag-safe and Thunderbolt/Mini-display port, so it consumes no additional real-estate.
The extra connector shown in the pictures is huge - the article suggests that it's not just for power but for other signals as well such as ethernet.
The whole point about Thunderbolt is that it is fully featured multi-master peripheral bus - in much the same way as Firewire or PCI-e are. Therefore, the logical architecture is to hang peripheral devices such as ethernet and USB controllers on the other side of it, in the connected device. This is precisely what Apple does in its Thunderbolt displays, even providing a Firewire S800 port back-hauled over Thunderbolt.
Intel appears to be trying to route a load of other signals from the host system to peripheral devices, somewhat corrupting the architectural vision of Thunderbolt.
The other obvious problem with this connector is its size - any laptop manufacturer trying to match Apple on form factor is going to have big problems finding enough space for this arrangement.