While Intel wants to make Thunderbolt a common interface, AMD has other plans with a technology it calls Lightning Bolt. Lightning Bolt is not to be compared to Thunderbolt, but is simply a technology developed to offer really cheap docking soluitions.
We think maybe Lightning Bolt is a bit too close to Thunderbolt and to be honest we would have prefered a different name. In the long run Intel is planning to implement more interfaces into Thunderbolt (today it has PCI Express and DisplayPort), to create a single cable to replace them all, or at least most of them. AMD does not share this vision with Lightning Bolt, but wants to make docking stations available to the broader masses with a lower price.
In Lightning Bolt it has combined USB 3.0, DisplayPort and energy consumption in one single cable, and in the computer it has combined this through a MUX (Multiplexer). AMD says that this MUX with bundled components will cost around 1 dollar to implement. The cable will be a mini-DisplayPort with changes to only two of the pins and this fits into what is called a Lightning Bolt Dock.
The dock then has a power connector, USB 3.0 ports and DisplayPort connector. The result is that you have access to all stationary tools such as monitor, mouse, keyboard and can charge the computer with one cable. A Lightning Bolt Dock will cost about the same as a regular USB 3.0 hub.
Even if the technology is both good and cheap there are limitations. USB 3.0 will not have full bandwidth, but how much is lost AMD did not say. Also, the amount of power passing through the cable is unclear. The USB 3.0 limitation may not be a big problem, but if there is not enough power passing through the cable the charge process may become very limited.
AMD’s next generation A series, Trinity, will launch in the middle of the year and Lightning Bolt that is still in development is intended to appear by the end of the year. Even if it looks good on paper and the price is appealing, the big challenge will be to convince companies to use it. AMD may have to surrender and settle for another standard for the charge process with AMD Lightning Bolt. We will keep an eye out for Lightning Bolt and hopes to report more about the technology in the future.