More broadly, this could be used to enable single-cable connectivity for laptops and tablets, with a single Type-C cable providing power to the laptop/tablet while also carrying input, audio, video, additional USB data, and more. This would be very similar to the Thunderbolt Display concept, except Type-C would be able to be a true single cable solution since it can carry the high-wattage power that Thunderbolt can’t. And since Type-C can carry DisplayPort 1.3 HBR3, this means that even when driving a 4K@60Hz display there will still be 2 lanes of USB Superspeed+ available for any devices attached to the display. More likely though we’ll see this concept first rolled out in dock form, with a single dock device connecting to an external monitor and otherwise serving as the power/data hub for the entire setup.
Speaking of which, this does mean that USB via DP Alt Mode will more directly be competing with other standards such as Thunderbolt at DockPort. Thunderbolt development will of course be an ongoing project for Intel, however for DockPort this is basically the end of the road. The standard, originally developed by AMD and TI before being adopted by the VESA, will continue on as-is and will continue to be supported over the DisplayPort physical layer as before. However it’s clear from today’s announcement that DisplayPort over USB has beaten USB over DisplayPort as the preferred multi-signal cabling solution, leaving DockPort with a limited duration on the market.
It’s interesting to note though that part of the reason DP Alt Mode is happening – and why it’s going to surpass DockPort – is because of the Type-C physical layer. In designing the Type-C connector and cabling, the USB-IF has specific intentions of having the Type-C connector live for a decade or more, just like USB Type-A/B before it. That means they’ve done quite a bit of work to future-proof the connector, including plenty of pins with an eye on supporting speeds greater than 10Gbps in the future.