For any new computer platform to be adopted widely, it needs to be expandable. Plug-in cards have allowed innovative smaller companies to piggy-back on the infrastructure of a host computer. This means that if you have some kind of specialist application, all you have to do is design an expansion card and not a whole computer and its associated operating system.
And this type of expandability has always been incredibly important to the digital media sector, allowing multi-track audio and even video to be manipulated on host computers that were otherwise completely inadequate for the task.
In 2003, Avid introduced its Mojo hardware, a breakthrough product because it included video processing external to the PC, with connectivity provided by Firewire. For the first time, external processing was available without having to plug in an expansion card.
But fast though it was, Firewire could not compete with the PC's own data bus.
Fast forward nearly a decade and we now have Thunderbolt. Originally only available on Apple computers, it is now available with PCs as well. And it is fast. Fast enough to send video to an external monitor, provide storage connectivity, and act as an external bus for other peripherals like mice, keyboards and printers - not to mention a network connection.
Thunderbolt is the connection that professional laptop users have been waiting for. MacBooks become an unruly mess if you want to use then with external screens, storage and peripherals. It's even worse with Macbook Airs because the 11" model only has two USB ports and a Thunderbolt port.
Matrox has just announced that their DS1 Thunderbolt docking station for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air is available for Pre Order. This small form-factor device has connections for a computer monitor (you can choose between support for DVI or HDMI when you order), keyboard, mouse, two USB 2.0 ports and a single USB 3.0 port, a gigabit Ethernet port, a loudspeaker/headphones output and a microphone input.
Why is there no dedicated storage connection? Because the flexibility of Thunderbolt means that you can daisy-chain devices, and the Matrox DS1 is designed to go on the end of the Thunderbolt chain, so that your storage is always the nearest device to the computer.