Intel missing from 1394 patent pool, believed lost

Surprise, surprise

The IEEE 1394 patent pool has finally got its act together and set up a body to oversee the licensing of the intellectual property central to the connectivity standard. And while 1394's usual suspects can now get on growing support for the technology among PC vendors and consumer electronics manufacturers, they'll be doing so without the backing of Intel. Chipzilla, it seems, has left the building. The 1394 patent pool was created earlier this year after Apple, the developer of the core technology and owner of a stack of 1394 IP, caused a furore by charging third-parties up to $1 per port to incorporate the technology into their own systems. Long-time 1394 supporters Sony, Compaq, Philips, Matsushita, Toshiba and STMicroelectronics called the Mac maker to account and forced it to share not only its IP, but reduce the licensing fees. Administration of 1394 IP licensing is now being handled by the newly formed 1394 LA body, which controls the use of the shared patents and charges 25 cents per system for the privilege. Intel joined the 1394 patent party in May after its formation, although not before it had announced a new version of its Universal Serial Bus technology which it claimed would offer comparable performance to 1394. However, it now appears to have collected its coat and made a discrete exit. One of the 1394 LA's first tasks was to seek independent verification of the degree to which the patents were essential for compliance with the 1394 specifications and their various sub-sets. The head of 1394 LA, Larry Horn, cited by TechWeb, said that there were three possible reasons why Intel plus fellow ex-patent poolers Mitsubishi and Zayante are no longer in the pool: "Either their patents are still in the process of being evaluated, they were declared to have no essential IPs, or they joined the group last May simply to express their support for the concept of a joint licensing program. [But] no conclusions should be directly drawn from this." Three reasons offered and three companies are currently out of the pool -- and he doesn't want anyone to draw conclusions from it? Hmmm. It's not hard to see which of these reasons could easily be applied to Intel. In any case, it suggests Chipzilla was never entirely serious about 1394 in the first place -- it wanted in case it couldn't get USB 2.0 up to spec. in time or at all. Now that it reckons USB 2.0 will hit speeds higher than 1394's current 400Mbps, it doesn't need to work on 1394 and can instead focus its efforts on promoting USB. ® Related Story Double-speed 1394 silicon due in volume by end Q1 2000

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