I had always heard that IBC was the geek's show, where you could readily access engineers, get to the heart of a technical issue, and drink more beer.
I'm happy to say it's all true, even after day one of traipsing up and down the aisles and taking in the rather interesting new announcments here. I've compiled a few for your viewing pleasure.
We should start with breakthroughs in Thunderbolt, and an acknowledgement from several hardware engineers of the difficulty of getting certification from the double-headed dragon that is Apple and Intel. Even so, we are beginning to see possibilities of how to use iMacs, Mac Minis, MacBook Pros and Airs in high-powered-field and in-house-collaborative environments.
Sonnet Technologies led the way with close-to-shipping boxes that provide housing for legacy PCIe and ExpressCard hardware.
The Echo Express PCIe 2.0 Expansion Chassis offer one or two-card PCIe enclosures that connect to a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac. The two card unit provided the most excitement for us, being that it provides a single solution for transitioning from a "legacy" Mac Pro to a newer Mac with Thunderbolt without having to reinvest in I/O or networking connectivity hardware. Yes, the box itself costs money, but not much (although the folks at the stand were shy to fix a number quite yet). Engineering was saying late-Novemberish for a release date.
Shipping next month however, is the Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter, which took us all by surprise. This unit serves to keep all legacy ExpressCard peripherals relevant in a Thunderbolt world, including the ability to mount Sony SxS cards on new Mac laptops (sexy). And where is that Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adaptor we've been waiting for? Just hook up one of these to Sonnet's already-shipping ExpressCard GigE adaptor, they say, and case closed. And at US$149, you might as well buy one for me (shipping address provided upon request).
They also had on hand an adorable Frankenstein-of-a-kit dubbed the RackMac Mini Xserver. Yes, that really is the name, and for those of you whom are that geeked out, you can see at least three name infringement lawsuits ready to roll. This 1U rack mount for a Mac Mini includes a built-in one-card PCIe to Thunderbolt adaptor, complete with power and cooling, and a cute little front-mounted mechanical power button so you don't have to awkwardly power the mini from the rear, plus it brings a USB port to the front as well. This got our colleagues at Gallery juiced as it's the near-perfect way to provide an ingest or playout channel for a Sienna system, and use a 4-lane card like the Kona 3G to handle your signal I/O. Pricing is not available, but bet on this unit being in the US$500 range.
Matrox was showing a working and looked-like-it-was-in-production model of its rather simple Thunderbolt solution: a simple self-powered US$99 box that takes a Thunderbolt cable and translates it to their proprietary PCI cable for the MXO series. What's attractive here is that current MXO users need only buy the adaptor to get their boxes to function on new Macs with Thunderbolt.
And speaking of small and cheap, Blackmagic Design came out with a second Thunderbolt box called the Intensity Extreme with Thunderbolt for US$295. Like the Matrox adaptor, this box is also self-powered and sports HDMI I/O plus legacy analog video and audio I/O, perfect for the event videographer in the field.
Next, AJA announced the imminent release of their Thunderbolt box, the Io XT, due out in about two months. At US$1495, it has two notable benefits that separates it from its competition. Firstly, it has built in up/down/cross circuitry like its cousins the Kona 3G and the KiPro, and AJA also took the trouble to make it a Thunderbolt passthrough box, which means that it doesn't have to be the last device on the Thunderbolt chain.
In the not-so-impressive Thunderbolt storage marketplace, G-Technology was showing a very rough prototype of their 8TB (yes, two Hitachi GST 4TB 3.5" Hard Drives) Thunderbolt box, due in Q4 of this year.
Promise added a new Pegasus storage box that sits nicely under a Mac Mini (even though it's a bit larger than the Mini, so it the edges don't line up, affecting my OCD sensibilities). Oh, and if you're wondering if the SANLink will ever ship, engineering told me two weeks, and the units (yes units!) on hand looked very polished, as if coming from an assembly line.
More tidbits coming soon. Enjoy and as always, we'd love to heard your comments!