Intel has already announced that it is baking in support for the Thunderbolt 3 specification directly into its forthcoming 10nm Ice Lake processors, eliminating the need for third-party control chips.
That means that Thunderbolt will basically underpin USB 4.0, so all USB 4.0 devices and ports will be automatically compatible with Thunderbolt devices for super-fast data transfer as well as device charging and display across a single cable as now. This is a big deal because the way things stand, it's not always clear if a USB-C port is also a Thunderbolt port. Intel designed Thunderbolt back in 2011 and, over time, it came to work over USB-C. The USB Promoter Group will also introduce a new USB Type-C Specification to handle USB 4 bus discovery.
Hot on the heels of releasing the USB 3.2 specification - and the abject confusion it's likely to cause consumers - the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced that the 40 Gigabits per second (Gbps) data transfer rates and multiple 4K display support that are exclusive to Intel's latest proprietary Thunderbolt 3 port will be made available to generic USB-C ports.
USB4 doubles throughput up to 40 Gbps across a two-lane interface with certified USB Type-C cables.
USB4 will undoubtedly change all that, with manufacturers being able to bring high-performance and the convenience of a single connector standard to devices across all price points, without owing Intel any royalties.
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Just as important, USB4 is backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.2 [PDF] and USB 2.0. In 2019 Thunderbolt 3 displays, networking products, docks, eGFX, PCI expansion, storage devices, and other adaptors are all numerous. It also means that USB4 is based on the underlying Thunderbolt 3 protocol.
50 companies including Intel, which co-engineered Thunderbolt with Apple, contributed to the new standard. To ensure consistent performance and quality standards, Intel manages a mandatory Thunderbolt 3 certification program that uses third-party test labs for verification.
Last week, it was announced that USB 3.2 was ready for prime time, meaning new high-bandwidth cables will start rolling out some time this year, while all previous USB 3.1 cables can be re-branded as a version of USB 3.2. The USB 4 specification is soon to be released.
The USB-C connector was created to be future proof and reversible.