Apple co-developed Thunderbolt with Intel, and has supported the copper-based high-speed data cable since its launch in 2011. Apple was the first company to hold a trademark in the Thunderbolt name before transferring the name to Intel.There are then active copper cables, which deliver at 40Gbps, and in 2016 new optical Thunderbolt cables will arrive for high-end usage over longer cable runs.
The next version of Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 3, will come with a USB Type-C connector.A Thunderbolt 3 cable will look like the current USB-C cables and will support the same power and data transfers, but it will also be capable of much higher throughput (40Gbps) in Thunderbolt mode. The only distinguishing mark? That small lightning logo on the connector itself. This is important because Thunderbolt works by integrating electronics directly into the cable itself — regular USB-C cables obviously won’t be able to carry out transfers at Thunderbolt 3 speeds.
With Intel now actively supporting rather than competing with USB Type-C, the nascent connector standard looks set for a bright future.