WE DON’T WANT this one to come across as a bunch of conspiracy theorist mumbo jumbo, but the USB-IF is starting to look like a seriously dodgy organization at this point in time. Let us explain what’s going on by starting with the fact that Texas Instruments has had both of its USB 3.0 host controllers pass the USB-IF certification, yet neither product is currently available from TI in any kind of quantity.
This in itself isn’t a big deal in itself, as plenty of products are certified ahead of actual availability; in fact many are required to be so by law. However, in this case it’s purely a matter of compliance and compatibility testing which the USB-IF is in charge of. As you may or may not know the USB-IF is non-profit corporation which is funded by among others Intel, HP, LSI, Microsoft, Renesas, Texas Instruments and ST-Ericsson, all of who have members on the board of directors and Intel is one of the leading forces behind the USB-IF with the president of the USB-IF, Jeff Ravencraft being an ex-Intel employee.
So what are we getting at here? Well, TI just got its two port TUSB7320 and its four port TUSB7340 host controllers certified, yet we’ve been waiting for over eight months for ASMedia, Etron and VLI to have their parts certified. So ok, maybe the products are really bad and can’t pass certification, but then why are there already products in the market using USB 3.0 host controllers from all three companies? TI has as yet to start shipping samples in any kind of quantity as far as we’re aware and the TI website lists both parts as out of stock.
Something just doesn’t seem to be right in the land of the USB-IF and things don’t make any more sense when you throw in Fresco Logic in the mix, as its FL1009 host controller, which the company told us is now what the USB-IF uses to test peripheral device controllers against, has as yet to meet the USB-IF’s stamp of approval. This makes even less sense if you think about, as if what Fresco Logic told us is true and we have no reason to doubt them then this is utterly ridiculous.
The Taiwanese USB 3.0 host controller makers have obviously given up waiting and we’ve seen boards from Asus and Jetway with solutions from ASMedia, Asrock, ECS and Gigabyte boards with Etron and Zotac with VIA’s four port controller. This is in a way suggesting that the USB-IF is losing its grip over the market, but it could also potentially lead to worse compatibility testing. However, we fully understand where the Taiwanese makers are coming from, as if their products were so far outside of the USB 3.0 spec then the motherboard makers wouldn’t touch their chips with a barge pole.
It’s hard to understand the logic that’s going on here, as it’s almost as if the standards organization behind the USB standard is hindering the market from moving forward. Yes, this is still very much based on what we know is going on in the market and not based on us talking directly to the USB-IF, but we’ll be shooting this story over to them and see what they reply. It’s unlikely that this has anything to do with Intel’s Thunderbolt standard, as it’s not set to become widely available outside of Apple’s closed sandbox for close to a year, but we can’t quite get the notion of some kind of conspiracy going on here out of our minds.S|A
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