FireWire Transfer Speeds Heating Up


The 1394 Trade Association's S3200 electrical specification is notable because it does not require the replacement of existing cables and connectors used currently.

If ratified in February 2008, it would give the interface a competitive advantage over USB 3.0, which is not scheduled for ratification until mid-2008. The association also claims FireWire products built using S3200 will directly connect to all previously released FireWire products, though it remains unclear when S3200 products would come to market. "We really see ourselves as an enabler of new technologies for computers," said James Snider, executive director of the association.

Snider said the group will continue to work on building the FireWire brand, which came in fourth in a recent brand recognition poll the association conducted (USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi were the top three). By promoting the brand, consumer confusion around compatibility and technical specifications dissipates. "We really need to continue to push the FireWire name, because as long as it works, people don't care," Snider said.

He hopes to see FireWire proliferate in a market dominated by the USB standard, which lacks some of the features FireWire supporters are used to, including more substantial power delivery over the cable. The association also claims technology is nearly finished that would allow FireWire to operate over cable television coaxial cables, making FireWire fast enough to move uncompressed HD signals over long distances at a lower cost than HDMI.

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One market segment Snider has high hopes for is in home networking. "Now that we're going digital, where broadcast signals are going to be digital, the home network installers are looking for a solution," he said. The association had been a little hesitant to "go full throttle" after home networking, but he says interest among home networking companies is rising. "They run CAT5 cable, so don't give them a coaxial solution -- but if they don't have to run the cable, the fact they can just use that and mix the two in the same network was a huge boost to them," he said. "And that's an area where we're way ahead of everybody else."

Some Web reports suggest the release comes as the association tries to stave off competition from Serial ATA (eSATA), an increasingly prevalent data transfer interface appearing on PCs and hard drives. Snider said he doesn't see much of a threat. "I just don't really see a compelling need for an external hard drive-only connector," he says. "I just don't see it becoming the dominant interface as some people claim. The last thing I want is a single purpose connector sitting on the back of my computer."