The OWC article also links to an article from July, when TB4 was introduced: Intel Introduces Thunderbolt 4: What It Is and Does It Matter?
It includes this diagram (from Intel?):
In it, you can see that it pretty much says the same thing that the latest article from OWC says. It is primarily making mandatory all the features that Apple has been (optionally) supporting for several years:
- Support for two 4K displays
- PCIe speeds of 32 Gbit/s
- At least one charging port (for battery-powered devices can charge on 100W or less)
- Wake from sleep when connected to a TB dock
- Intel VT-d based DMA protection
The new features are:
- Universal 40 Gbit/s cables up to 2m in length
- Support for accessories with four TB ports (that is, 4-port hubs)
- USB4 compliant (vs. optionally compatible)
The things that have not changed from TB3 are:
- 40 Gbit/s data rate
- 15 W minimum power supply for downstream accessories
- Thunderbolt networking
- Mandatory certification and quality audits for devices and cables
In other words, the only distinguishing feature between TB4 and Apple’s existing TB3 implementation is support for 4-port hubs and USB4. Which, for all we know, they might be able to add to older TB3 Macs with a software/firmware update.
So why did Apple use the funny language instead of explicitly saying “TB4”? My guess is that the software/firmware for 4-port hubs isn’t quite finished. Until they ship that capability, they can’t legally say it’s TB4. Once they start shipping and supporting the capability, I will expect the branding to change.