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Anti-Apple FireWire firms propose alternative spec

Developers eliminate Apple patents -- but how quickly can they deploy it?

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Peripheral and PC vendors are believed to be developing a modified version of FireWire, aka IEEE1394, in an effort to sidestep Apple's latest '1$-a-port' licensing fee (see Apple caught charging crafty FireWire fee). According to a report in, a number of developers are proposing what they call 1394B. Not only is the specification twice as fast as current FireWire technology but avoids relying on the Apple-patented signalling techniques that Apple is using to justify charging a licence fee. 'Apple-free' 1394 would operate at 800Mbps instead of the current 400Mbps and use a signalling system borrowed from the Fibre Channel world. The next stage of the design process would be to incorporate support for current FireWire devices in a way that also eliminates the key Apple intellectual property. However, Michael Teener, CTO of US-based Zayante, a 1394 infrastructure company, quoted in the EE Times report, reckoned it would take two years to progress the backwards-compatible 1394B specification to the point at which it could be widely deployed. In the meantime, vendors will have to live with whatever agreements they can come to with Apple, while those who have already signed earlier, one-off royalty payments (see Apple's FireWire licensing -- the debate rages) will churn out high-performance FireWire peripherals. As will those who realise that what they lose in royalty payments to Apple, they gain in not having to equip devices with power supplies. ®

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