The ThunderBolt connector has used the same plug-and-port design for years, but the next generation is reported to mix things up with a new design and even faster speeds. Intel has given the as-of-yet-unnamed standard (we'd place iCash on Thunderbolt 3) update the codename Alpine Ridge, and it's said to double the transmission rates of Thunderbolt 2 to up to 40Gbps. The new connector is also shorter in height, measuring in at around 3mm, compared to the 4.5 mm of the current Thunderbolt design.
The design of today's Thunderbolt connections is based off of the Mini DisplayPort standard, which has been in use since debuting on Apple MacBooks in 2008. Intel's slides say there will adapters for old cables to maintain compatibility with the new Thunderbolt, but there don't appear to be any plans for built-in hardware backwards compatibility.
That amped-up 40Gbps transfer rate means that a single Thunderbolt 3 port would be able to drive two 4K displays (as the standard still supports daisy-chaining) through the use of four PCI Express lanes, though there will also be a low-power version for lower power devices like the MacBook Air that will only use two PCI Express lanes.
We're still likely a ways off from seeing Thunderbolt 3 hitting the market. Thunderbolt 2 devices just started landing a few months ago (though computers have been shipping with Thunderbolt 2 support for some time). But here we have a look at the future of Thunderbolt: even faster and a bit thinner. What do you think — is this the Thunderbolt you've been waiting for?