Recently, the USB Implementers Forum, Inc. [USB-IF] announced that they were renaming USB 3, 3.1 and 3.2, which has led to many computer users scratching their heads as to what the hell for? Now they’re going to be confused again, as USB 4 suddenly comes out of nowhere, and it’s bringing Thunderbolt 3 connectivity with it.
The new nomenclature for USB 3 has been renamed USB 3.2 Gen 1, USB 3.2 Gen 2, and USB 3.2 Gen2x2. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Simply put, there’s nothing new about USB Gen 1-Gen2x2. So why do it? Larry Jordan attempts to clarify things with his explanation here, and why it’s a stupid idea to do so. Essentially, it’s to categorize the difference in speeds, between USB 3.2 Gen1 at 5GBps (originally USB 3), through USB 3.2×2 which manages up to 20GBps through two separate 10GBps lanes.
Equally stupid, as far as I can see, is that just a few days later, USB 4.0 has been announced. USB 4 promises to be backwards compatible and rival Thunderbolt 3 with speeds up to 40GB/s, but only with USB4 certified cables. Some believe that USB4 is really just Thunderbolt 3 gone open source thanks to Intel making good on a promise made a few years back to do so. I’m not sure Apple would agree with that assessment, but Intel is really at the heart of developing and supporting Thunderbolt 3, so if they choose to open it up to the rest of the computing world, who are we to complain?
Rest assured though, that while USB 4 has been announced, it’s only as a road map, leading to publishing specs that manufacturers can use to create their own USB supported hardware, utilizing the Type-C connectors. This will take some time, about 18 months before we actually see USB 4.0 compatible computers and hardware. But since it’s so close to Thunderbolt 3, it’s possible we’ll see it sooner.
Could USB 4.0 be the bridge that brings Apple and the PC world closer together? Will Cupertino announce the next generation iPhone using USB-C connectors? I don’t know about that. Just when the rumor mill offers wishful thinking like that, Apple doubles down on lightning yet again. But sooner or later, it may be inevitable, and USB 4.0 upgrades may be that next step.
But even if it doesn’t, being backwards compatible may mean that users of Apple hardware can use a USB 4 monitor and vice versa a lot easier. In theory.