back to article Acer silences Thunderbolt

Intel's Thunderbolt I/O protocol looks just a little less likely to threaten USB's status as the world's preferred way of connecting stuff to computers, after Acer decided it can't be bothered using it in PCs any more. The Taiwanese company, which is clinging on as the world's fourth most-prolific PC-pusher, last week slipped …

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Byz

PC sales are falling quarter on quarter (as you have reported before) so this is probably going to be irrelevant.

Also as most PC manufacturers try to build and sell cheap (as there no longer seems to be a market for high end PCs) so thunderbolt is an added expense.

I use both thunderbolt andUSB3 a pure thunderbolt drive is much faster (sometimes you get a USB3 masquerading as a thunderbolt and you really notice).

However later this year thunderbolt 2 comes out and that will be twice as fast as thunderbolt, so amongst those who edit video this will be the device of choice.

So in the end those who need it will get it and everyone on a budget will be stuck in the slow lane :o

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: "Everyone on a budget"

It's not about budgets. People will happily spend 500 quid on a smartphone, and yet ignore a far more powerful PC at less than half that price.

People have just completely lost interest in PCs, it's as simple as that, so any technology that's designed purely for PCs is as dead as the PC itself.

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Mature market.

The PC market matured. There's no more massive expansion, because everyone who needs or wants a PC now has one. There's no more upgrading, because the technology reached the point of 'good enough' around the Core 2 Duo - ancient chip now, but still quite capable not just of office work but playing games too. There will always be some sales for replacements and general economic/population growth, but the big boom is over.

Phones and tablets are advancing fast enough to keep the upgrade demand high - the average life of a phone before replacement is still only a couple of years.

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Re: Mature market.

"There's no more upgrading, because the technology reached the point of 'good enough' around the Core 2 Duo - ancient chip now, but still quite capable not just of office work but playing games too."

While the console market remained static, true. As they move up the next generation though, PCs will likely be more taxed. Top gaming PCs will remain unfazed, but mid/low end systems won't be able to cut it.

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but mid/low end systems won't be able to cut it.

How can angry birds and jewel drop etc tax any remotely modern machine?

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FAIL

Re: "Everyone on a budget"

> It's not about budgets. People will happily spend 500 quid on a smartphone, and yet ignore a far more powerful PC at less than half that price.

Errm, but 500 quid buys you something that's nice to look at. That PC is hideous and too big to hide easily.

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Re: Mature market.

Yes, the PC market matured, in much the same way as the Video Game market matured during the '80s. Everyone can remember that bloodbath that video game manufacturers took then...only to find themselves sitting pretty in the '90s / '00s.

Let's do a little analysis of the PC market before we declare it dead, shall we? The PC, in all of its form factors, is used for Accounting, Engineering, Graphic Art, Word Processing, Databases, Computer Aided Design, Video Game Design, Programming, Math, Entertainment, and so on. No other device on the market is as versatile as the PC...it can do everything, and it can do it well, provided you do not cheap out on the hardware or software. In essence, it's highly adaptable, perhaps a magnitude or so away from human beings themselves in terms of adaptability (for now)...and that tells us one thing -> before the PC is going to 'die,' all of its less capable, stripped down variants will go first. It's not the omnivores that go first, it's the species that have stringent needs / demands that can only be met under certain conditions. As such....I do not see Smart TVs dying out, nor do I see the web-enabled consoles found in cars these days near extinction either, nor do I see smart phones suddenly being replaced with a pair of tin cans and some string. Verdict? The PC is versatile, adaptable, and unlikely to die any time soon.

So what's really driving all these proclamations of death of the PC? An excellent question, and I do not have the answer. Why are PC sales down? Does everyone who needs one have one? Impossible, most of the undeveloped world has yet to be fully tapped. As for the developed world, the upgrade cycles as well as new people being born ensures that new PCs will be continuously acquired, provided we do not suddenly revert to an agrarian society. What are the likely suspects? Well, let's see here...Windows 8, which manufacturers were banking on, has not exactly wow'ed people into buying new hardware; additionally, the global malaise of a malfunctioning economy is making people focus more and more on cutting costs / corners...as such, the upgrade cycle may be lengthening.

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Re: Mature market.

"So what's really driving all these proclamations of death of the PC? Why are PC sales down?"

In short: Windows 8. This is a product you either love or hate. Despite what the people who love Windows 8 say, the majority hate it. It is fine on a tablet or convertible laptop, but not on a regular laptop or desktop. I promise you this: If Windows 7 was still sold in the stores you would see a huge uptick in PC sales. I helped someone order a new HP laptop. The salesman said over the phone that there was a 2 week delay on that Windows 7 model due to high demand. 3 weeks later, her laptop arrived. Windows 8 is the reason PC sales are down. And Microsoft is too stubborn to admit that different tools have different purposes and too greedy to let other companies make money a different way than themselves.

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Boffin

Re: but mid/low end systems won't be able to cut it.

@Jess (08:06)

Bird crap in heatsinks causes CPU self-cooking...

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Re: but mid/low end systems won't be able to cut it.

How can angry birds and jewel drop etc tax any remotely modern machine?

They're talking about real games, not the stuff you play while riding the subway.

TBH, I do like some of the casual games like Plants vs. Zombies, but the rumors of casual gaming displacing hardcore gaming are way too exaggerated. There's no way the Call of Battlefield Halo crowd are going to switch to Candy Crush for all their gaming needs.

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Headmaster

Re: "So what's really driving all these proclamations of death of the PC?"

Well, let's see, why might people be glad to see the death of the PC?

The fact that people are sick to death of Windows, decades of OEMs stubbornly refusing to offer alternatives to Windows, and Microsoft's little racketeering "channel" that maintained this status quo, combined with the tremendous relief that finally someone (Google) found a way of sneakily circumventing that racket by the only means possible, by shifting the public to Windows-incompatible hardware, rather than pointlessly trying to convince Microsoft's "partners" to offer something besides Windows on PCs.

And I'm afraid your analysis misses two rather crucial points: regardless of how many use-cases there are for PCs, the fact remains people are increasingly not buying them, whether you think they ought to or not. And companies don't survive on previously sold products, they need to keep selling them - today and in the future, so the fact that there are millions of PCs "out there" is moot. I still have a Sinclair Spectrum in my attic, but that inconsequential fact doesn't put any money in Clive Sinclair's pocket, nor does it support a thriving ecosystem for that platform.

So yes, there are still a lot of people using PCs, in the same way as there were still a lot of people using Amigas in the mid 1990s, long after the platform was essentially dead, and long after people had stopped buying them or anything connected with them.

Of course, eventually even Speccy and Amiga die-hards had to accept reality.

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Linux

Re: "Everyone on a budget"

500 quid on a phone? You must be insane? I've never spent nearly that much. Although I admit that all of my recent phone purchases (Apple or Android) have all been subsidized.

I would be hard pressed to spend 500 quid on a laptop.

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Mushroom

Re: "Everyone on a budget"

I don't care if it's "ugly" if it gets the job done. A pretty thing might not even be able to do the job badly.

Those geeky little details that are supposed to be obsolete now determine whether or not you can actually do something and how pleasant you will be while doing it.

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Alien

Re: "500 quid on a phone?"

But that contract you just signed commits you to paying 500 quid anyway, albeit spread over 2 years, so one way or another you still pay 500 quid.

I'd rather pay mine up front, and have the freedom to switch SIM cards as and when suits me, without having to "hack" my own property first. That also gives me the benefit of actually getting a signal in areas not covered by "x" network - I just swap SIMs depending on where I am at any given time. But by far the best benefit is not being enslaved by a contract that forces me to pay for a "service" I don't use every day, using PAYG SIMs that let me pay for what I use, and only what I use, if and when I use it. Yes, PAYG prices are higher, but in balance it still works out far cheaper for someone like me who rarely makes voice calls.

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Re: Mature market.

What "kills" the PC? Very simple: the excessive expectations to sell more and more PCs. Microsoft (and Intel) promised OEMs that they will sell more and more PCs. Naturally, when this does not happen, those who took the financial risk (the OEMs) go back, some bankrupt.

The PC is not going anywhere, most PC makers are. Who cares?

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Makes no difference

The average man in the street is quite happy with his 3 year old PC that does everything that is needed. Few people need such high speed transfer rates, are happy with USB 2 and there is nothing innovative enough or must have to upgrade.

The consumer is much wiser to the fact that new and 'upgraded' PCs are just smoke and mirrors.

I have a first generation retina screen iPad, I see no reason to upgrade until it stops working. I mean why upgrade for a new socket, slightly faster processor and fractionally less heavy new one when it does everything I want of it.

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Thumb Down

Re: Makes no difference

"are happy with USB 2"

Are you sure about that?? Have you tried moving around a few hundred gigs of data over USB2 any time recently??

The faster interfaces are primarily needed to keep up with the ever expanding size of hard drives.

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Re: Makes no difference

From a personal point of view, I have a MacBook Pro and Dell XPS, while I have USB 3 on the Mac and USB 2 on the Dell. I've never had an issue with waiting a couple of minutes longer and it gives me time to put the kettle on.

The average user doesn't move hundreds of Gb of data, maybe a few photos, video, music here and there perhaps but that's about all. I wouldn't buy a new computer, spend £500 just to have a couple of USB 3 sockets and then have to upgrade my USB 2 memory sticks or back up hard drives or buy new caddies for my old hard drives.

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Stop

Re: Makes no difference

The average user is using such cheap, slow SD cards that the spec of their PC and data bus are the least important things of concern.

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Re: Makes no difference

"Are you sure about that?? Have you tried moving around a few hundred gigs of data over USB2 any time recently??"

How often does the average person do that? Maybe a couple of times a year to back up the family videos*. The only people who routinly shift such large amounts are pirates and professionals in a few data-heavy fields.

*Hah. The average person doesn't make shif backups anyway.

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Linux

Re: Makes no difference

> Are you sure about that?? Have you tried moving around a few hundred gigs of data over USB2 any time recently??

Yes. I do it all the time actually. Although I will be man enough to admit that I'm probably in the minority.

The thing here is that people usually aren't sitting and waiting for such a transfer to complete. This is something they will leave to finish or something that they will ingore while they are doing something else with their computer. Perhaps you have heard of this thing called MULTI-TASKING.

It's far more important that your task can finish without babysitting and not negatively impact the performance of everything else running on the machine. It's far more important that a 200G file transfer doesn't crater performance for the other apps you're using.

Mazerati speed fixations aren't really that relevant.

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I think part of the problem aswell for non-mac users is the avaliability of devices which use the technology. There aren't that many.

There are a fiar few for mac, and I can see mac sticking with it because well, they're apple, they like being different. but why should I buy an expensive thunderbolt device when all my mice / usb sticks / microphones / speakers / portable disk drives / lots of other bits already make use of USB.

I think if they'd first focused on a niche where thunderbolt is clearly a winner (portable disk drives perhaps) and then worked on pushing outwards they might have had more success.

But hunderbolt just hasn't had that much of a push outside apple. Apple launched thunderbolt with very few thiings making use of it, but they touted claims of how superior it was. PC on the otherhand has just kind've jumped on board. "Oh yeah, we have thunderbolt also, so y'know if you wanna use a few of the mac bits here go for it." and then left it.

I guess what I'm saying is Thunderbolt was more a markettting failure than technological.

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Byz

Backups

Where you really see the difference is when you backup your hard drive or do video processing if that is no a concern then USB2 is fine :)

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Anonymous Coward

> I guess what I'm saying is Thunderbolt was more a markettting failure than technological.

I suspect it's more along the lines that Intel wanted to charge money for the chipset on both ends of the wire, whereas USB3 is generally free to implement. That's a guess though ...

Unless you are consistently pushing high bandwidth why take the financial hit? Almost no users I know do video editing or who HDD backups from their home PC.

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Marketing failure, or price?

I think the latter. Crazy costs for cables (£25+), crazy costs for the devices. Yes, it's a clever socket. But it's too expensive.

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Re: Backups

Having just backed up data to a USB3 portable drive using rsync from a 2010 iMac (USB2 only) I can vouch for how much of a pain in the arse the older standard is when backing up. I'm looking forward to the day when my machines have USB3 / thunderbolt especially after reading the Macbook Air review where 50+GB transited in a little over 2 minutes.

The question I have is "does USB3 experience the slowdowns of USB2 in the real world when performing this sort of task (backing up rather than rsync per se)?"

USB2 just slows to a crawl as time goes on.

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Re: Backups

If you're using Thunderbolt to connect a $6,000 Red video card to your Macbook, then a $30 cable isn't that much. But yeah, far from mainstream.

Sony's take on it was a very thin n' light VAIO Z laptop with an external Radeon dock... again, far too pricey to be mainstream.

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Byz
FAIL

If they don't back their disks they are going to spend a long time rebuilding it when the disk goes bang, I know this from personal experience (many years ago). On windows XP this on average happens after 2 years when NTFS corrupts itself :(

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Happy

I always assumed that that was a feature in XP, as it would have slowed to the point of uselessness by then anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

The Thunderbolt ports on the MacBook are a disincentive to buying one, for me. There have always been to few USB ports--2 is a joke, especially when they are a mm apart. Why must they waste precious cabinet space on a near-proprietary boondoggle I will likely never use? It is almost insulting.

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Re: Backups

>far too pricey to be mainstream.

And herein lies the problem.

Vendors are far too intent on segmenting the market and extracting maximum revenue from cashed-up mac users. The *devices* are too expensive, forget the cables. a dual-disk sata external box should be case+price of sata 2-port card.+ a bit for thunderbolt - but with the electronics in the cable, the box should be cheap. Marking up the box by $240 isn't on.

I don't understand why laptop manufacturers don't do a full external PCIe dock, so I can hook up my quad i7 to a proper graphics card and monitor. I don't know if you can tie multiple thunderbolt ports together - a straight external PCIe would be fine. 20+ external pcie lanes seems like a a massive winner to me. Most people don't need more than integrated graphics on the move, but a high-end i7 might be more useful if I can use the system for gaming too. i7 and rubbish graphics is such a disappointment.

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Meh

Re: Backups

eSata has served me well for backups & large file transfers. Unless there is an urgent need I will not be aquiring a no faster & much more expensive Thunderbolt connection.

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"I guess what I'm saying is Thunderbolt was more a markettting failure than technological"

Agreed. It is of course not the first time - Betamax versus VHS comes to mind.

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Flame

Re: "I guess what I'm saying is Thunderbolt was more a markettting failure than technological"

I think of thunderbolt as the new firewire.

Techincally superior but will be beaten by USB because of propitiatory bullshit.

Just like its grandfather.

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Pity

Pity as Acer make some decent laptops and thunderbolt as a single docking station connection is something USB3 can't do anywhere near as well.

As for storage not sure, how does it compare to eSata?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pity

I agree that Thunderbolt would be useful--for adding more USB ports to a MacBook! Apple and Intel must both hope for better than that.

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I'll probably have a short / medium term use for Thunderbolt

I have a considerable investment in PCIe audio cards. Enough to make a PCIe extender over Thunderbolt worthwhile if I go the laptop or iMac route..

The vast majority of people probably won't have a need, but there's definitely a niche for some of us.

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Acer

I still have very bad memories of problems caused by Acer (bad enough that after 8 years I'll not recommend them or go near them), so the fact that they aren't supporting it is irrelevant to me.

(I suppose the relevance of it to others may be relevant to me, but don't others have similar off-putting experiences with Acer)

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Re: Acer

Interesting 1 thumbs up 5 thumbs down about my feelings for Acer. Is that 5 happy customers for every one unhappy customer? (Or should I include myself?) Be interesting to see how this pans out.

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Re: Acer

My last Acer laptop is a huge (dis)incentive for not buying another Acer lappy ever. And that was two years ago.

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Re: Acer

I think manufacturers often forget the 'knock on effect' of one bad experience. If that one person happens to be head of IT procurement, or even the overtaxed geek 30 or 40 people come to for PC advice, then one bad experience *COUGH MAXTOR* will cause loss of sales out of all proportion to what not trying to charge ME money to RMA a faulty drive would've cost ...

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Anonymous Coward

back in the day

its a bit like USB and Firewire, firewire might have been faster etc but it never really caught on beyond a niche market in graphical intensive sectors. We had a load of DELL Precision Workstations 530's in use with our Modellers they had built in firewire ports, can't think of anyone who used them

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Anonymous Coward

Re: back in the day

" firewire might have been faster etc but it never really caught on beyond a niche market"

Steve Jobs wanted an exorbitant royalty per port for giving PC makers the privilege to incorporate FireWire in their products. That was the actual impetus leading to the development of USB. Had it not been for that, then FireWire and FireWire devices would have been far more common.

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Re: back in the day

Per CNET, Apple wanted $1/port circa 1999. Licensing is now handled by everyone's other favourite, the MPEG LA, seemingly for more like $0.25/device but I can't find any confirmation of when it was handed over and therefore when prices became more reasonable.

AnandTech reports that there's no per-port fee for Thunderbolt so it looks like the cost is just whatever the actual chips cost from Intel.

So a fairly obvious prediction: Thunderbolt will take off if and when Intel incorporates it with whatever other silicon so that they're offering it for free if you buy whatever the modern equivalent of a centrino is.

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Intel have crippled themselves!

The reason why so many OEM's are not supporting Intel's Thunderbolt is because there is a mandatory requirement to deliver Video through it!

I firmly believe that if Intel relaxed this requirement, and under the terms of it's license allowed manufacturers to deliver everything but Video, then there would be a wider adoption of the technology.

Because OEM's are not delivering Thunderbolt, then Thunderbolt devices are few and far between - it's a real catch-22.

Until Intel relax this mandatory requirement then USB 3.0 will continue to win through. Thunderbolt is a great technology - but Intel have crippled it with stupid rules!

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Re: Intel have crippled themselves!

I wasn't aware of this. Does that mean that the new MacBasic with it's 12 TB ports will actually support 12 monitors out of the box? (note that I am not being sarcastic - it is a serious question)

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Happy

Re: Intel have crippled themselves!

Good question - I understood that a single TB port on an iMac supported up to 2 TB displays. So following your logic the new (and very sexy) Mac Pro with 12 TB ports should support 24 TB displays??

Now wouldn't that be something?!

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Anonymous Coward

Scanner

I'm wondering if it is possible to build a USB3 to Thunderbolt adaptor.

I was looking for a scanner with a Thunderbolt interface to no avail. My Mac only supports USB2.

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Re: Scanner

If you mean that you want a TB to USB3 adaptor, then they exist. However you will pay for it and it's cable until you bleed (think about the same price as a top-end Epson flat-bed scanner).

Also you will really struggle to find one with an onwards port so that you can still plug in an external monitor - and for me that is the killer. Having to unplug the monitor to use a docking station is just fscking stupid.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Scanner

You can get a Belkin (?) port replicator now. Unfortunately, it cost more than most consumer scanners, last I knew, and as much as many PCs. $300 US, I think? I'm too lazy to check.

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