Intel and Apple’s Thunderbolt was doomed to not be taken seriously by the rest of the industry because of one reason: Apple was involved. Thunderbolt does work very well inside the Mac world but out of the walled garden, it’s implementation on Windows has been less than stellar. Sure, it can work, but Windows 7 only offered rudimentary support and it took Windows 8 to offer any support that could be considered passable. Despite being based on a royalty-free standard (Displayport), Thunderbolt is more expensive to use by far.
With Displayport 1.3 being signed off by VESA later this year, AMD’s marketing team (at least what’s left of it) put together a video highlighting a change they’ve added into the Displayport 1.3 specification that makes Thunderbolt redundant. Its called Dockport and clearly, AMD wants consumers to know about it.
Dockport is only an extension of Displayport 1.3. Like the technology it’s based on, Dockport is royalty-free and can be used by anyone and implemented quite easily. The standard uses the same connector as Displayport and mini-Displayport and saves users a ton of money by only requiring the use of passive Displayport cables. Only a single pin is swapped over on both cable ends and the result is that it doesn’t even impact regular Displayport functionality.
AMD’s vision was that, like USB, there should be a single standard to connect up peripherals that may use different chipsets and hardware, allowing them to communicate over the same medium and reduce cable clutter and system complexity. Dockport-capable cables allow USB 3.0 connectivity as well as electricity for charging purposes to be sent along the cable. In one scenario pictured above, AMD says it’s possible to use a nettop-like APU system connected to a monitor, which is daisy-chained to a second monitor and a small speaker system. No power cables are seen anywhere and the keyboard and mouse are wireless.
Other scenarios involve charging a tablet with a mini-Dockport cable, hooking up a tablet to an interchangeable set of Dockport-ready hubs to provide connectivity and there’s even a reference design of a slimline desktop PC that is hooked up to a monitor and a tablet.
Its interesting to see someone else in the industry take an interest in what Apple and Intel were trying to do with Thunderbolt but the technology has never taken off outside of that niche. Dockport, through standardising on a single connector and cable, makes the same ideas possible and at a much cheaper price. All that’s left to do is encourage manufacturers to adopt the standard and implement it in firmware.