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1394 support threatened by encryption IP confusion – MS exec

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Microsoft has followed Intel's release of the final USB 2.0 spec with a little FUD of its own. According to one Carl Stock, general manager of Microsoft's Windows hardware strategy group, cited by EE Times, USB 2.0 rival IEEE 1394 is less likely to attract widespread support thanks to the way 1394's key intellectual property is managed. Stork's point is that "some of the control protocols and content protection technologies still have undefined intellectual property regimes that make [secure 1394 links] a challenge". 1394's key IP is maintained as a 'patent pool' among the technology's chief supporters, an approach put in place last year after Apple - which developed 1394 under the name 'FireWire' as an open standard but retained the rights to certain technologies on which it is based - got on the wrong side of its partners by attempting to levy what they believed to be excessive IP royalties. Apple's alleged fee of $1 per port has since been cut to 25 cents a system. However, the "content protection technologies" Stork is referring to are not part of the 1394 spec. According to EE Times, said technologies are the data transport protocols defined by International Electrotechnical Commission's (IEC) standard 6183, parts 2-6. And not only are they not part of the 1394 specification, but they relate secure transmission of data across any bus. The irony here is that the confusion Stork describes is as likely to apply to USB 2.0, given that technology is as applicable to the transmission of video data as 1394 is - or will be, when it ships. It's the need to protect such data that is focusing some vendors on the IEC technology. And it's not as if the IEC system is the only solution - as the EE Times report points out, there are alternatives, such as the 5C Group's system. That technology is maintained through a patent pool of its own and its licensing regime should be sufficiently clear for any vendor keen to offer data protected 1394-based solutions. ®

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