USB, that little rectangular plug that can be found on just about every computer peripheral cable you come across, is one of the biggest success stories in the history of computing. Ditching the slow serial and parallel cables of yore and replacing them with a fast, universal standard that could draw power and allowed connecting of dozens of peripherals without rebooting... well, it was genius. When USB 2.0 arrived, with much faster performance, it got even better. It's not hyperbole to say that USB, despite its humble status as a mere connector, is one of the most important computer technologies to ever be invented.
Well, USB fans, things are going to get even more interesting and soon. USB 2.0 may be fast enough right now, but with more high-definition video products arriving and bigger and bigger files being transferred, that won't be the case forever. Enter USB 3.0, which moves the bandwidth needle from 480Mbps to roughly 4.8Gbps, 10 times faster than the current version.
The new standard, which was recently demonstrated using a new optical cable (but the same connector), will be backward compatible with older USB formats and promises better power efficiency, too, in order to decrease the load on portable devices. Possibly in the works: Better ability to charge devices over USB, some of which still require an A/C adapter or two USB connections to draw enough juice.
Specs are planned to be delivered early next year with commercial availability for 2009. Just do us a favor and clearly label USB 3.0 products with an appropriate logo this time! (USB 2.0 got caught up in a mini scandal when vendors started labeling USB 1.1 products as "USB 2.0 capable," with vendors later claiming they only meant the products worked with USB 2.0 connections. Fail!)