The next version of the popular Universal Serial Bus (USB) data connection standard, USB 3.0, was officialy launched late last year. Industry oibservers say we can expect to see support for USB 3.0 in new products hitting the shelves within the first half of this year.

USB 3.0 is just as simple to use as its predecessors, but much faster. The example comparison offered by indicates that a 25 GB movie or data archive that would take 9.3 hours to transfer via USB 1.0 and 13.9 minutes by USB 2.0 will take only 70 seconds to transfer via USB 3.0.

That’s great news for video fans and those who regularly deal in big image or audio files.

The USB 3.0 cable will look a lot like its predecessors and is backwards compatible with them but it has twice as many wires inside, making it about the same thickness as a standard Ethernet networking cable.

The effort to develop and nail down the USB 3.0 standard has taken three years and has been frought with delays. So frustrated were hardware makers that some, including graphics leader nVidia and microprocessor giant Advanced Micros Devices (AMD), threatened last year to come up with their own version of USB 3.0 and make the defacto standard. But the official standard arrived in time to head off that eventuality.

Alas, Windows 7, the next full version of Microsoft’s (MS) flagship operating system, won’t ship with USB 3.0 support, according to MS engineers who spoke at a recent Windows Hardware Engineering Conference. Unless, of course, Windows 7 — due for release later this year, runs into delays. And, if the developoment history of previous versions of Windows is any guide, there’s a good chance it will.

Stay tuned!

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