Now that Intel's Thunderbolt connectivity standard is starting to see adoption, AMD wants a piece of the single-cable action too, and it's not afraid to raise a few eyebrows to get there: the company's showing off a prototype of "Lightning Bolt" at CES 2012, which is designed to deliver data, uncompressed video, and power over a solitary connection. The name's not subtle, but the idea is actually rather impressive: by combining USB 3.0 and DisplayPort 1.2, the company says one Mini DisplayPort socket can drive up to four additional monitors at a time. Resolution drops the more you add, though: you can have a pair of 1080p monitors in addition to your laptop display, or four at the less-impressive 1366 x 768. The idea is that you'll have a dedicated AMD chip in your laptop to facilitate the single port, and then also an external docking station that can provide a bevy of additional connectivity, including the aforementioned video, Ethernet, and USB. It can also apparently provide power over the Mini DisplayPort, though AMD says only low-wattage chips need apply.
Lightning Bolt is still in the incredibly ugly prototype stage, we're sorry to say, and AMD didn't allow us to take any pictures of the rat's nest of wires that allowed our brief demonstration to work, but the company says you can probably expect to pay around $50 once it's turned into a consumer product. When might it be available? AMD can't say — the company explicitly hacked together a prototype to convince OEMs to build ultra-thin single-port computers, so none are in the works quite yet.