Double-speed 1394 silicon due in volume by end Q1 2000
Way ahead of USB 2.0, yes -- but does that matter?
IEEE 1394, the high-speed digital connectivity standard, is set to hit 800Mbps, double its current throughput, in Q1 2000, with production silicon available to PC vendors and consumer electronics companies by the end of the quarter, the 1394 Trade Association has said. The speed hike is the result of the already announced 1394b spec., launched in the face of Intel's Universal Serial Bus 2.0, which is now promised to reach 400Mbps and up mid-2000. USB 2.0 isn't expected to appear in product form until late next year, so if the 1394 TA's schedule is met, 800Mbps 1394 devices should be out well in advance of the Intel-sponsored solution. The 1394 TA's chairman, James Snider, was typically bullish, claiming that 90 per cent of all camcorders to be released in Japan next year will support 1394. Fine, but so far only three PC vendors are backing the technology: Sony, Fujitsu and its inventor, Apple. Snider also cited upcoming 1394-based printers from Epson, scanners from Umax and mass storage products from Fujitsu. Again, that's hardly a massive vote of support from the PC peripherals industry. While 800Mbps is a significant step forward in throughput, only digital video applications are ever likely to benefit, which is the one 'flaw' with 1394 -- it's too highly specced for almost all PC-centric applications. A 1394 printer is as daft an idea as a SCSI-based one -- printers a limited by the speed of the print engine, not the speed of data moving from host PC to peripheral. That said, 1394's peer-to-peer approach to connectivity will mean that, say, a file can be printed from a 1394 hard drive straight on a 1394 printer without the need for a PC to control the process. And 1394 is certainly making inroads into other consumer electronics markets -- Sony, for one, sees it as the foundation for the connection of all home digital devices -- so the technology's future is assured even if it fails to win wide backing from the PC industry. ®