Intel’s Thunderbolt Share lets two PCs control each other over a USB cable

Why can’t you just plug a USB cable between two PCs, drag your mouse cursor between their screens, and drop files between them, as if they were a single machine? Well, you can and have for years — but Intel may be about to turbocharge that idea with Thunderbolt Share.

It’s a proprietary app that Intel will be licensing to laptop, desktop, and accessory manufacturers to bundle with new hardware. Install it on two Thunderbolt 4 or 5 computers, connect them with a Thunderbolt cable, and you should be able to share your mouse, keyboard, screens, storage, and other USB peripherals; drag and drop files at Thunderbolt speeds; and sync data between them. It won’t let you share an internet connection, though.

Intel says you can also mirror one PC’s screen to another at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second at low latency and with zero compression — and the PCs can connect through a Thunderbolt dock or monitor if that’s more convenient than a direct link.

It doesn’t strictly require a Thunderbolt-certified computer, mind you, or even necessarily an Intel processor. “USB 4 and Thunderbolt 3 connections may work, we just really don’t guarantee it, we won’t be providing support for it,” says Intel Thunderbolt chief Jason Ziller.

But it does require the app, which Intel will charge OEMs an extra license fee to provide exclusively with new hardware. Having to buy a subset of Thunderbolt computer or Thunderbolt accessory kind of limits the environments in which this might come in handy! Intel says you do get a second license with any Thunderbolt Share PC you buy or two with any accessory, though.

The app is an upsell because PC manufacturers are interested, says Ziller, and Intel wants to test and certify it thoroughly with them “to make sure it’s a great experience.”

It’s also just for Windows right now: “We’re exploring other OS opportunities but at this point in time it would not work connected to a Mac.”

Acer, Lenovo, MSI, and Razer are the first PC partners, along with accessory vendors Belkin, Kensington, Plugable, and Promise Technology. Some of those companies previously sold “Easy Transfer” cables designed to migrate from one computer to the next; Plugable already sells a Thunderbolt cable packaged with a Bravura Easy Computer Sync app that offers drag and drop and remote computer control, too. I wonder how Thunderbolt Share will compare.

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