I’d used Apple products almost all the way through elementary and secondary school, but the first Apple product I owned was the iPod Photo. My now-wife had bought it for me when I’d been fretting over buying an MP3 player for quite some time. As a broke college student, I was leaning towards buying a cheap, Linux-friendly creature I would’ve had to source from eBay, but kept putting the decision off. My wife, who has never stopped working since she got her first job at Walmart in secondary school, was so excited when she saw the look on my face as I opened my birthday gift (we have since agreed on a significantly lower gift limits). Looking back, I can see now how it was pretty obvious I really wanted the much more expensive iPod, mainly because it was so easy to use - the click-wheel interface and iTunes combination was unparalleled. You have to remember that back then iTunes was so lightweight and easy to use that unless you were a dyed-in-the-wool llama-whipping Winamp user you were using iTunes. That, and I wanted FireWire support.
I really liked the idea of FireWire. USB 2.0’s promise of 480Mbps never really panned out because something else was always sharing the bandwidth, and twitchy device management in Windows made it a pain sometimes (I see you plugged your device in to the USB port beside the one you normally use - sit here while I reinstall everything! And hey, do you happen to have the install disk with you? Because I can’t seem find the driver I’ve used when you plugged it in all those other times! Or, as I’ve had happen even on Windows 7: I see you’re running a backup to your external HDD, but you ejected and unplugged a USB stick from the port beside it so you’re just going to have to start that all over again, m’kay?). My Toshiba laptop had a mini-FireWire 400 port, so I found the right cable, and I was set. It was everything I’d hoped for, fast and reliable in a way that USB never really lived up to. All was good, until my iPod’s HDD died, and Apple dropped FireWire support for iPods, never giving it to subsequent iDevices.
So it’s 2012 now, I own a few more Apple products, and we’re still stuck using USB 2.0. Which is a bit of a choke point when you’re trying to load up an iPad with season one of Game of Thrones shortly before leaving on a trip. But it’s okay, because relief is in sight! Thunderbolt! Making your life better with AC/DC! Or is that just me playing Thunderstruck in my head whenever I read an article about it? I’m not sure. Anyways. It will be interesting to see when Apple makes the jump to Thunderbolt for iDevices. While all new Macs save the Mac Pro have at least one Thunderbolt port, PC support will only show up sometime in 2012, and mainly from Intel. And USB 3.0, which although not as versatile does also offer a vast improvement in transfer speeds, is already available on new PCs or with expansion cards. So will Apple give PC makers a chance to implement Thunderbolt first? If not, will they rely on Intel shipping its chipsets with support, or move like they have historically and just throw it out there way before anyone else is ready to move? Will they throw a bone and provide USB 3.0 support as well? One of these may be significantly less likely to happen then the others, but I would say that all types of users are ready for and would appreciate the dramatic increase in transfer speeds that Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 would offer.
On one hand, if competitors could offer USB 3.0 support in their devices before non-Mac users get Thunderbolt support and Apple implements Thunderbolt support for iDevices, it could be a distinct advantage. On the other hand, I think it’s been pretty clear that Apple’s supply-chain management has provided the company with a much more important advantage, assuming that everyone is going full-bore on this. The chance of competitors being able to shoehorn USB 3.0 support into any top-selling tablets or smartphones, and winning significant mindshare before Apple is set to go with Thunderbolt, is pretty slim.