Will USB 2.0 douse FireWire?

Like an unloved house plant, IEEE 1394 -- the high-speed peripheral serial bus also known as FireWire -- appears to be dying on the vine as Intel nourishes instead Universal Serial Bus (USB) as the best low-cost solution for attaching peripherals to PCs.

In October, at Intel's USB developer conference in San Diego, the chip giant is expected to release the final specification for USB 2.0 which will, it now appears, have an equivalent performance to IEEE 1394. USB is expected to perform in the 360- to 480Mbps range (or up to 60MB per second), while current shipping versions of IEEE 1394 perform at 400Mbps.

"[IEEE] 1394 deployment into the PC platform has proceeded more slowly than expected," said an Intel document on the company's Web site.

One key factor in the "slower than expected" deployment of IEEE 1394 may be that the bus is not supported by Intel in its own core logic chips. According to Jason Ziller, platform marketing manager for Intel, the company has no plans at this time to support 1394 in the chip set.

The Intel Web site also cited "uncertainties about cost and licensing" for lack of IEEE 1394 adoption. The licensing and cost issues revolve around Apple. As the owner of the IEEE 1394 patent, Apple must be paid a licensing fee for use of the 1394 bus, according to one peripheral manufacturer who asked not to be identified.

Last year Intel cited video conferencing systems, high resolution scanners, and printers and auxiliary data storage as devices that would benefit from the IEEE 1394 bus, but this year the company is citing the same peripherals for use with USB 2.0.

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Ephraim Schwartz

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