The Universal Serial Bus (USB) Implementors Forum has announced that development is under way on a new “Media Agnostic (MA) USB specification.
MA-USB removes the need for USB devices to connect by wire. Instead, they'll use WiGi, WiFi or maybe even UWB to swap data with whatever other systems they connect to. The choice of WiGig and the fact the WiFi alliance has made its Serial Extension v1.2 available to form the basis of MA-USB means gadgets should be able to chat at gigabits-per-second with existing drivers in the target OS. USB 2.0 and 3.0 will therefore be supported by the wireless standard.
The advent of MA-USB thickens the wireless USB plot. The USB Forum already ratifies “Wireless USB”, a short-range and slowish (max speed of 480Mbps is most easily-achieved over just three metres) spec that has found its way into devices like wireless game controllers without often being labelled as having anything to do with USB.
MA-USB is the USB Forum's play to cut the cord for more common kit. While doubtless welcome, MA-USB devices will still need a power source so the new standard won't mean USB cables to go away any time soon. The fact that many devices can do meaningful work when connected to PCs over WiFi (think iOS synching) means it won't necessarily be a saviour, although its promised Gigabit speeds create all sorts of opportunities (think streaming video around the house) and perhaps a threat to Bluetooth as well.
Version 1.0 of MA-USB is expected to appear in 2015. Just when it will appear in gadgets and PCs (assuming the latter still exist after 2015) is anyone's guess. ®