Thunderbolt is a new over-the-wire technology. Expect to start seeing it more and more in 2012, and I think it may eclipse USB 3.0 before it really gets off the ground.
It’s essentially PCIe over a wire, but also incorporates the DisplayPort standard which also allows the wire to handle monitor connections – the connections can also be daisychained, and it’s bidirectional. It supports up to 10Gbps in either direction (so 20Gbps bidirectionally).
For a sense of scale, in order:
– USB 2.0 runs at 480Mbit/sec (total speed in any direction)
– eSATA runs at 3Gbps (total speed in any direction)
– USB 3.0 supports 5Gbps (total speed in any direction)
– Thunderbolt can support up to 20Gbps, 10Gbps in each direction.
In real life, this wire will transfer about 3/4 of a Gigabyte (768 megs) to 1 Gigabyte in ONE second.
This is an Intel technology, but the only one using it right now is Apple. Apparently a really good reason to use this is to make devices (like tablets & laptops) lighter because it’s only 1 port, where you don’t need multiple ports to get things done. So a Thunderbolt wire could connect to a projector, monitor, PC, external hard disk, etc.. and they can all be daisychained…