Village Instruments has said on a Facebook post today that it plans to design and sell a Thunderbolt-based external graphics card enclosure for use with Thunderbolt-equipped Macs. Anandtech first reported the announcement, which came as a result of a positive response to a poll Village Instruments originally posted on Facebook last week.
A Thunderbolt-based graphics card enclosure, which Village Instruments is calling the ViDock Thunderbolt, would ostensibly give Mac users the ability to upgrade the graphics capability of any Mac laptop or desktop with a Thunderbolt port. Presumably it might also work with Apple's new Thunderbolt Cinema Display.
Using Thunderbolt for such a device makes plenty of sense given that, on Macs at least, the standard rides piggyback on the existing PCI Express graphics card bus. The Thunderbolt picture is less clear on the Windows side. So far only Sony's Vaio Z laptop has a similar implementation, a proprietary design based on the same Intel LightPeak technology behind Thunderbolt. Sony has not made the throughput of its LightPeak design public, although Sony says the port is USB 3.0 compatible, and it's shaped as such. Apple's 10Gbps Thunderbolt port, on the other hand, relies on the Mini DisplayPort plug standard.
With two different LightPeak/Thunderbolt input standards on the market, and potentially more on the way once Intel rolls out LightPeak on its next-gen Ivy Bridge chipsets later this year, we have no way to know whether a ViDock Thunderbolt designed for the Mac will also work with forthcoming LightPeak-equipped Windows-based systems. It's possible that Village Instruments or some other vendor could come to market with a LightPeak-based card enclosure, but in its post, Village Instruments refers only to a Thunderbolt-based device working on a Mac. We also can't say whether the ViDock would provide a speed benefit to a Mac-based, virtualized Windows-environment.
Village Instruments has not yet announced the price or the release date for its ViDock Thunderbolt. It currently sells its highest-end Express Card-based enclosure, the ViDock 4 Plus, for $279.