TechWeb: Apple’s FireWire ‘has beat off USB and is poised to break out this year’

“After running in the middle of the pack with several other transmission schemes for a decade, 1394 is poised to break out this year. The high-speed technology is about to take its place tying together the pieces in the home theater’s move from analog to digital TV. In addition, the technology–also called FireWire and i-Link–is beginning to show up in surprising ways in enterprise applications,” W. David Gardner reports for TechWeb News.

“‘The really interesting stuff-wireless–is coming later this year,’ said 1394 Trade Association (TA) executive director James Snider in an interview. ‘We’ve already showed that 1394 wireless can go through walls with no degradation of the signal.’ Snider said more than 1300 separate products now include 1394, ranging from HDD drives and set-top boxes to televisions and DVDs,” Gardner reports.

“The technology has had to hurdle several obstacles along the way. It has beat off competitive threats from DVI, Ethernet, and USB. Hollywood interests, too, tied up the technology for years, as the film industry worried 1394’s capability of producing perfect copies of films would cut into profits. The result is a regulation that permits users of devices with 1394 technology to copy material for personal use,” Gardner reports.

“‘FireWire will be in virtually every high-end computer–in workstations and, particularly, in Apple machines,’ Snider said… He noted that Apple is putting the technology in its computers to beef-up its traditional emphasis on graphics and video. In fact, Apple pioneered the 1394 technology, which it called FireWire. Snider said the FireWire moniker might, in fact, replace the 1394 title as the technology becomes more widespread,” Gardner reports.

Full article here.


  1. Despite Intel backing USB, facts are facts. Firewire is faster over the long run.

    USB2 is a burst technology, it RARELY gets to 480MBPS, it’s kind of a misnomer, personally, false advertising, but hey, the general public doesn’t know better.

    Firewire is an amazing peripheral for scanners, dv cameras and etc, it’s just more efficient.

  2. USB was a decent technology…for mice and stuff like that. It still is a good technology. USB 2.0(worst name ever) is a poor excuse for a protocol, and is made for all the cheap PC bastards out their who can’t part with an extra $20 for a better product. USB 2.0 tried to kill firewire in a price war, but consumers have changed. They want quality and the want the best product available, and that’s firewire.

  3. Don’t forget that USB2.0 is a standard that isn’t just backwards compatible with USB1.1, but INCLUDES USB1.1.

    Cleverly from a marketing standpoint, this means that as a USB1.1 device also complies with USB2.0, it can be labelled as USB2.0.

  4. Not bad for a technology I first read about in MacWeek way back in 1989. (Apple’s other announcement at that time was a bus replacement for MIT/TI’s NuBus, called QuickRing.) Back then the initial speed of FireWire was only 50 Mbps. With standards now ranging up through 3.2 Gbps it sure has come a long way.

    The biggest difference between FireWire and the rest of the croud is the lack of a requirement for a centralized controller. In theory you can hook two FireWire enabled camcorders together and play a tape in one and record it onto the other. (I say “in theory” because I don’t personally know anyone who has done it.) The other competing standards (especially USB) require a central controlling device (such as a computer) to direct traffic.

    Apple either had a stroke of genius (or a lapse of business sense) when it specified that FireWire would not require a central computer (even a Mac) to run the show. While at the time of its introduction people wondered about that (and wondered about it again when the USB spec came out and Intel set it up so a computer [preferably an Intel based computer] would have to control the system) it seems as though not requiring a computer to control everything has worked out well for FireWire even if it is approaching 15 years old this summer!

  5. To Jay:

    Sorry to be an old fuddy duddy again, but I just went and looked at the brand new Dell we just got at the office, and what do you think is on the front? Yup. A floppy drive mouth.

    This computer is even one of those smaller mini-tower designs that is as close as Dell can come to making an attractive computer like an iMac.

    Apple seems to have some control over the colours used for computers (and many other things), but not the feature set. One example – Apple chose SCSI as an open standard faster, scaleable hard drive system. Although a few high performance PC’s used it (and still use it despite the existance of FireWire [see above]), most used EIDE. SCSI was better is a hundred ways, but the (cheap) EIDE won. In fact, my Mac uses EIDE.

    As one very clever gentleman said earlier: “We sure would hate to obsolete anything, after all.”


  6. recently did a showdown between Firewire 400 and USB 2.0. On both PCs and Macs, Firewire was faster. More so on Macs, but they speculate that’s becuase Mac USB 2.0 drivers are relatively immature. But even on PCs Firewire is much faster.

    I thought that was interesting, but not surprising. Firewire being a streaming protocol, and USB 2.0 being a packet protocol, it only makes sense that in the long run, Firewire would be faster.

  7. Shadowself:

    I have indeed hooked up two DV cameras with a FireWire and transferred from DVCAM format directly to my Canon MiniDV. Worked like a charm.


  8. Firewire is better suited for video because of the sustained throughput, USB 2.0, as has been stated, works in bursts, but cannot sustain the same throughput. Also note that the power on the firewire bus is much higher. Thus you can charge your ipod from the computer with a FW connection, but a PC with a USB 2.0 connection has to have a connection to either a FW port or the adaptor to charge it.

  9. USB 1.1 was perfect for peripherals like a computer mouse, keyboard and game controllers. Unfortunately it was also used for things like scanners and audio interfaces which would have benefited from the faster speeds of FireWire 400. If Intel licenced FW400 from Apple the same way that Apple licenced USB from them in the first place (and made the technology popular) today we would have a better selection of peripherals for our computers on both platforms.

    Now what is all this talk about wireless FireWire? If this technology is as good as it sounds on paper then we can expect computer and audio-visual equipment to advance to the next level of performance. For example, cameramen could be out and about shooting footage in a riot and have the data streamed wirelessly to a recording device inside their car parked hundreds of meters away. If the camera is damaged the footage would be safely away from it.

  10. What about those USB “pen” or flash drives? Where is the FireWire equivalent?

    None! As these USB beasts get bigger it sure would be nice to have FireWire speed but I don’t see it happening because of the volume of ultra cheap USB devices…

    I knew of one company that had a fireWire flash device (name skips me…) but it had a female connector so you had to find a cable to plug it in… so instead of driving FireWire pen drives Apple has ignored the potential.

    Look at the USB flash card readers…. everywhere! Try finding FireWire card readers…. same story…

    Show me a FireWire 800 hub…. hmmm seems to be a pattern here…

  11. So let me get this straight… just cuz everyone already knows… and, it’s my turn to tell everyone that I know what all this “complicated” stuff is all about…

    Okay so, USB 1.1 is good for mouse and keyboard, USB 2.0 is fast but not as fast as FireWire (a.k.a. Sony iLink/1394), FireWire was codesigned by Apple, USB by Intel, USB 2.0 is a load of crap that Intel sold the world as fast, USB 2.0 is “burst technology”, USB 2.0 cannot maintain sustained claims of 480Mbs throughput, FireWire is the real deal faster than all USB technologies, FireWire 800 is up to 4 times faster than the original FireWire which, in turn, is faster than USB 2.0… arrrrrrrrg!

    Everyone here knows this. So who cares? Is this just a chance to let others know that we all know about USB and FireWire?

    Is it just me? I feel like I’m taking pills!!!!

  12. I’ll tell you what is truely cool. The TCP/IP and the redundant (Screaming fast) connections it allows me to have between my servers.

    What I cannot find however is a USB to ethernet adapter that works in OS X…

  13. “Firewire has beat off USB…”??? Who’s this guy’s copy editor? That’s a TERRIBLE way to phrase this information, unless it’s going to be printed in Penthouse or something. Still…it’s good to see a positive article about Firewire.

    Bizarro Jeff

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