Next Macbook Pro to feature “Thunderbolt” port for high speed I/O

Apple’s Macbook Pro line is due for a refresh soon, particularly since the base 13″ model is still using the older Core 2 Duo processor because of chipset and GPU constraints.

Pictures have surfaced from French Mac site Mac 4 Ever showing what appears to be a Mini DisplayPort with a thunderbolt next to it:

In addition the site posted what appears to be a product package for an unreleased Macbook featuring the Thunderbolt icon, calling it “High Speed I/O”

Fscklog has also posted a shot of what appears to be the back panel of the same product packaging, again listing Thunderbolt as a High Speed I/O port:

The new 13″ Macbook Pro will use the Intel Core i5 processor along with Intel’s chipset, which means it will also have to use Intel’s integrated graphics instead of the Nvidia solution used before. However, the higher end Macbook Pro models will almost certainly keep using discrete Nvidia and ATI graphics solutions.

The product packaging also reveals that Apple is now calling the old iSight camera “Facetime HD”, which may indicate that the new image sensor is capable of taking 720p videos.

But what is the “Thunderbolt” connection? It’s almost certain to be a copper implementation of the Lightpeak connection Apple was rumored to roll out soon, capable of 10Gbps+ connections to multiple devices at the same time.

While it may appear that Apple is using their own branding for the new port, it’s possible the move is similar to the Firewire ecosystem, where some vendors (Apple included) used the Firewire branding, but others instead referred to that port as IEEE 1394.

The fact that Apple is packaging the connection into the existing Mini DisplayPort suggests a few things about what they intend to use it for.

For starters, look for an updated Cinema Display in the near future that will use the new Thunderbolt port both for display connectivity, and as a breakout to offer other kinds of ports like USB, Firewire and so on.

Also look for adapters to be sold so that the port can be used by existing peripherals and new ones coming on the market, as the rest of the market is unlikely to follow Apple’s lead in merging the Mini DisplayPort with the new Lightpeak connection.

Stay tuned for more!

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