Sony Goes Thunderbolt With Vaio Z But Side Steps Intel By Using USB 3.0

Sony announced the Vaio Z which packs a powerful punch thanks to a new Intel processor but the biggest piece is Thunderbolt – it’s the first computer not made by Apple to ship with the new tech.

But It’s Not Called Thunderbolt …

The new Vaio Z, which has been touted as making the Mac look cheap, goes toe-to-toe with the MacBook Air by packing more powerful hardware but also calls Apple out on its slice of Thunderbolt. The underlying technology of Thunderbolt powers the Vaio Z and connects to an external dock with a more powerful GPU but Sony has opted to call it Lightpeak which was the original codename for the jointly developed Intel and Apple tech:

“As with most ultraportables, the VAIO Z only packs a grand total of two USB ports, and only one of them is USB 3.0-compatible. But here’s a surprise: the latter port is also where Light Peak is implemented: the fiber optic cables feed data to and from the media dock, which we will touch on later.”

So why isn’t Sony calling it like it is and saying the Vaio Z packs a Thunderbolt port? Licensing and compatibility concerns. The high costs for tacking on a Thunderbolt port could have put Sony off and in retaliation or defiance, USB 3.0 was chosen as the connector. While adding the cost of Thunderbolt to a Laptop that easily costs more than an average MacBook Pro wouldn’t be an issue, Sony is likely taking a stance against Intel and Apple by reaping the benefits of Thunderbolt without shelling out the licensing fees.

Another reason would be compatibility. Assuming Sony uses the standard Thunderbolt port which is really a Mini Displayport connector, Mac owners could buy the accompanying Media Dock thinking it works with their hardware. Sony is known for making their tech work well with their products by creating their own proprietary formats. While Sony isn’t hesitant on others adopting them, I doubt the company cares about what kind of physical connector it uses as long as the Hardware serves its purpose.