FireWire spec for consumer disk drives unveiled

The specification creates a common protocol for hard-drive-equipped consumer devices that will play, store and exchange digital audiovisual content over FireWire networks, Quantum said in a statement issued this week.

The products expected to emerge from the specification will simplify the wiring needed to connect audiovisual devices to one another. When used as an interface for audiovisual hard disk drives, FireWire ports can allow for smart communication between intelligent recording and playback devices, Quantum said.

The first consumer electronics devices with FireWire-based drives will be launched later this year by Panasonic Consumer Electronics, Panasonic has said.

John Kim, vice president of data storage market analyst Trend Focus, said earlier this year at the Diskcon conference in Singapore that the new breed of consumer PVRs (personal video recorders) that combine a set-top TV receiver box with hard-disk storage will be the long-term savior of the hard-disk drive industry, but that the sales explosion in the market is still a couple of years away.

About 1 million PVRs will be sold worldwide this year and more than 3 million in 2001, Kim said at the conference. Massive year-on-year growth will then kick in as PVRs make use of volume manufacturing to enable pricing at typical consumer levels.

Currently, PVRs can store approximately 20 hours of TV programming, with TV at its current definition using about 1G byte per hour. High-Definition TV uses 9G bytes per hour to store programs and will give a tremendous boost to the disk drive industry when it becomes widespread, according to Kim.

Other key sectors in the consumer disk storage market going forward are MP3 audio players, which will soon be accompanied by desktop storage consoles; digital cameras; navigation systems; internet appliances and mobile phones, Kim said at Diskcon.

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