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What is "Thunderbolt"? Is it an industry standard? What advantages does it offer? Are there any disadvantages?
Apple's own website defines Intel's new "Thunderbolt" standard. However, as multiple people have asked, Apple's marketing copy follows for your convenience:
MacBook Pro now gives you access to a world of high-resolution displays and high-speed peripherals with one compact port. That’s because Thunderbolt is based on two fundamental technologies: PCI Express and DisplayPort.
PCI Express is the technology that links all the high-performance components in a Mac. And it's built into Thunderbolt. Which means you can connect external devices like RAID arrays and video capture solutions directly to MacBook Pro -- and get PCI Express performance. That's a first for notebooks. Thunderbolt also provides 10 watts of power to [as many as six daisy-chained] peripherals, so you can tackle workstation-class projects on the go. With PCI Express technology, you can use existing USB and FireWire peripherals -- even connect to Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks -- using simple adapters.
And because Thunderbolt is based on DisplayPort technology, the video standard for high-resolution displays, any Mini DisplayPort display plugs right into the Thunderbolt port. To connect a DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, or VGA display, just use an existing adapter.
Thunderbolt I/O technology gives you two channels on the same connector with 10 Gbps of throughput in both directions. That makes it ultrafast, and ultraflexible. You can move data to and from peripherals up to 20 times faster than with USB 2.0 and more than 12 times faster than with FireWire 800.
Objective Thunderbolt Advantages & Disadvantages
The advantages of Thunderbolt are quite clear from the above -- it's much faster than USB 2.0 or Firewire "800" and it replaces Mini DisplayPort but is backwards compatible with the technology so there is no lost investment in displays one already owns. Older display standards can be connected with adapters and even USB 2.0 and Firewire "800" peripherals can be connected with adapters as well, should the need arise.
One wouldn't expect the marketing department at any company to point out potential disadvantages to their product, but there are a couple of modest short-term and long-term disadvantages, too.
In the short-term, Thunderbolt technology is more expensive than the well established USB and Firewire standards and there are few Thunderbolt-equipped peripherals available, but over time -- assuming that the standard takes off -- the price will drop and more peripherals will become available as well.
In the long-term, although Thunderbolt is significantly faster than USB or Firewire, it only supports six daisy-chained devices compared to 127 devices (including hubs, rather than daisy-chaining) for USB and up to 63 devices for Firewire (with 16 in a single daisy-chain). Six devices is probably more than enough for most users, but it may be a limitation to others nevertheless.
Ultimately, given Thunderbolt's speed and backwards-compatibility it seems highly likely that it will be widely adopted by the professional and "prosumer" audience for connectivity.