Intel has founded the USB 3.0 Promoter Group to "create a superspeed personal USB standard that can deliver over 10 times the speed of today's connection".

The chip giant is jumping into the R&D bed with HP, Microsoft Corporation, NEC Corporation, NXP Semiconductors and Texas Instruments Incorporated to spec out the new standard. Based on the existing USB architecture, USB 3.0 will be optimised for low power operation and improved data throughput.

Why USB 3.0?

Yes, why USB 3.0? Because USB 2.0 can be woefully slow. Ever tried to copy large files between PCs? Or transfer 10 gigs-worth of music to your new MP3 player? USB 3.0 is on the drawing board because Intel & co. realise that people want to move ever larger chunks of data between different devices. And they don't want to wait.

"USB 3.0 is the next logical step for the PC's most popular wired connectivity," said Jeff Ravencraft, technology strategist with Intel and president of the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).

"The digital era requires high-speed performance and reliable connectivity to move the enormous amounts of digital content now present in everyday life. USB 3.0 will meet this challenge while maintaining the ease-of-use experience that users have come to love and expect from any USB technology."

Hi-speed USB 2.0 is currently rated at 480Mbits per second. A ten-fold increase in transfer speed would put the theoretical speed of USB 3.0 at a staggering 4.8Gbits per second.

Quite how USB 3.0 features in an industry that is also championing Wireless USB remains to be seen.