The next version of USB connectivity (Type C) was announced by VESA today, and offers capabilities that rival those of Thunderbolt. Unlike prior USB connectivity, Type-C is a new approach that, similar to Apple’s lightning connector for iOS devices, is both bidirectional and reversible, meaning you do not have to worry what end of the USB cable to use, and do not have to worry about flipping it upside-down to connect it. This change offers obvious benefits over current USB cables, but in addition, the Type C cable will come with 100-watt power and a new “DisplayPort Alternate Mode” will allow you to run monitors up to and beyond 4K resolutions.
Combining DisplayPort and high-speed data capabilities is nothing new, and was introduced on the Mac with Apple’s Thunderbolt port; however, in addition to being a new technology that was not yet widely adopted, one problem with Thunderbolt is its lack of high power capabilities, so devices that run on it often require their own power source. In contrast, the 100W power delivery in Type-C USB connections will allow for charging and powering of all devices (including laptops, and connected monitors, etc.).
While Thunderbolt still has its place since it offers an extension to the PCI-express bus and can host a number of devices that USB cannot, for many purpose, including backward compatibility, USB is still the preferred connection protocol for peripheral devices. With the addition of DisplayPort protocols and high wattage power deliver, USB is maintaining its dominance and is perhaps evolving to be the single connectivity port we use in laptops, desktops, and mobile devices of the future.