Technology is all about the next step. Improving your existing technologies, creating new ones to solve problems, or coming up with new ways to do things. Apple and OS X are no exception. As you read this, teams of engineers from many different companies are hard at work inventing and working on new and innovative technologies that will show up in Apple hardware, iPhones and future versions of OS X.
Some of the future technologies that are likely to be a part of the next version of OS X and possibly your next Mac are:
Solid State Drives (SSD): Hard drives have natural limitations due to their mechanical design. There’s only so fast you can spin them, you need room for the platters, heads and motors. Cooling is essential and of course, data loss is frequent. Solid State Drives are basically larger flash based storage units to replace hard drives. They are smaller, take up less power and can withstand more normal wear and tear than a conventional drive before losing data. Right now, they aren’t “new” technology – they’ve been around for a few years now but what’s new about them is that (like Flat Panel HDTVs) they are becoming better, more reliable, faster, larger in capacity and cheaper. Your iPhone or iPod Touch is basically a small computer with a Solid State Drive.
Parallel Processing: With the release of Snow Leopard and its GrandCentral / OpenCL technologies, Apple has made it easier for developers to tap into the power of parallel processing on mutlicore chips and graphics cards. Now, instead of a developer having to code the processing along with the application, they can just take advantage of OpenCL and let GrandCentral do the multicore threading. Look for more parallel processing aware applications, and significant speed boosts in the near future as developers begin to work with these new apis.
802.11n: The latest revision to WiFi is already common in Macs, Base Stations and PCs. What’s so special about 802.11n is that this is only the beginning for it. Currently MacBooks and Base Stations run 802.11n at around 130 Mbits/s. Now throw in channel bonding, MIMO, and Frame Aggregation all running over four streams with 40 Mhz wide channels and 802.11n’s top speed is a theoretical 600 Mbits/s!
DOCSIS 3.0: Cable Modems run via a standard called DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification). Currently, most cable providers are running at DOCSIS 2.0 which gives you speeds of about 30Mbits Up and 42Mbits Down. DOCSIS 3.0 has the same speed ranges but like 802.11n, DOCSIS 3.0 boosts speeds by adding together channels (Channel Bonding). Typical DOCSIS 3.0 speeds are around 122Mbits Up and 171-343Mbits Down. Best of all, to provide this speed boost, all your cable provider needs to do is install different equipment at the head end and provide you with a new cable modem or a firmware upgrade.
Incoming Technologies: (2010-2011)
USB 3.0: The latest revision to USB is expected in consumer products sometime in 2010. With the new “SuperSpeed” bus, you can easily expect real-world speeds or 3.2 Gbit/s with USB 3.0. In addition, a power boost of 900 mA for configured devices allows you to power larger (or more) devices without requiring a separate power adapter. With ASUS and Gigabyte already producing USB 3.0 capable motherboards, this one will be here soon. However, Intel isn’t supporting USB 3.0 until 2011 and that may slow things down.
Light Peak: Intel is hard at work at their new optical cable technology, Light Peak. Designed as a replacement for SCSI, FireWire, HDMI, USB and SATA, it works on Corning’s ClearCurve technology. Intel is developing this for all sorts of uses such as desktop computing, display cabling, networking and storage devices. Current speeds at 10Gb, however it’s theorized that Light Peak can easily scale up to 100Gb speeds. There are rumors floating around that Apple is working with Intel for Light Peak equipped Macs by the end of 2010. My bet is that it’ll be in an XServe.
Long Term Evolution (LTE): The next generation of Mobile Wireless, LTE is already beginning to come online. Besides faster speeds (Peak Downlink of 100 Mbps), the main advantages are low latency, lower operating costs, spectrum flexibility and the ability to pass calls to older GSM / CDMA towers if you step out of an LTE area. Adoption of LTE in the US will begin around 2011 with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Metro PCS and Cox Communications.
Wi-Fi Direct: Also known as Wi-Fi Peer to Peer, Wi-Fi Direct is a new type of ad-hoc network creation that can be embedded in laptops, mobile phones, cameras, printers and all sorts of electronic devices allowing you to create networks and communicate with them over WiFi, instead of Bluetooth. Advantages of this are increased speeds such as 802.11n, WPA2 encrypted protection and automated setup. While officially announced a few months back, Wi-Fi Direct is supposed to appear in 2010.