The USB Promoter Group, the standards body behind the USB specification, announced it would step forward to the USB 4 architecture in the middle of 2019. In addition, unlike the USB 3.0/3.1/3.2 era, which uses the color interface for intergenerational differentiation, USB 4 does not have this requirement. Existing Thunderbolt 3 cables should be fine to continue to use with USB4 but if you have a USB 3.x cable with Type-C connectors, you may have to upgrade to make the most of the new options available.
The USB-C connector was created to be future proof and reversible.
The standard is set to support 40Gbps speeds and the Thunderbolt 3.0 standard - following Intel opening the licencing of the technology to manufacturers.
Thunderbolt 3 integration also enables the simultaneous transfer of both data and display protocols, meaning that you can daisy-chain 4K monitors and other Thunderbolt 3 devices, like external storage or GPU enclosures, together into one cable that connects to your PC. That broadening of access to the technology could see a proliferation of today's more fringe technologies, like high-resolution displays and higher-fidelity virtual reality - not to mention even faster power delivery. You can send nearly anything over USB as long as it is a supported protocol. We have no idea what the first implementation of the news USB4 standards will be called and won't until it's released in mid-2019.
The good news is that Intel has long promised that it will eventually make Thunderbolt 3 royalty-free, and on Monday we finally got a glimpse of how that will happen: Thunderbolt 3 is merging with USB.
USB is one of tech's ultimate success stories - a universal standard that took off in every way.
What's the USB 4 release date?
The same thing applies for other types of USB ports.
According to the USB Promotors Group, the full USB4 specification will be published during the second half of 2019. Until then, watch this space for any news or updates!
Ultimately, relinquishing control over Thunderbolt 3 is indeed a "significant milestone for making today's simplest and most versatile port available to everyone", as Intel General Manager for Client Connectivity Jason Ziller said in a statement. "The USB4 solution specifically tailors bus operation to further enhance this experience by optimizing the blend of data and display over a single connection and enabling the further doubling of performance". Reputable Thunderbolt 3 docks (offering 100W Power Delivery, multiple USB ports, 4K60 HDMI, GbE, etc.) can cost a couple hundred bucks or more, so the inevitable proliferation of USB4 will hopefully allow the prices to come down dramatically. "We are excited to work with our partners in the ecosystem to bring USB4 to market and showcase its benefits".