M$ confirms WinXP won't support USB 2.0

1394 preferred

Microsoft has confirmed our earlier report that it will not be supporting USB 2.0 in the final release of Windows XP, preferring instead IEEE 1394 - aka FireWire, aka iLink - as the OS' high-speed peripheral bus.

"USB 2.0 support will not be included in the [final] version of Windows XP due to the fact that there is not a sufficient array of production-quality devices to test against," a company spokesman told CNET in an email. "Microsoft will not ship support for a standard that they can't guarantee a great user experience on."

We're not surprised by the response. After all, Microsoft's general manager for hardware strategy, Carl Stork, said as much in the run-up to the recent WinHEC event.

Said Stork: "I think people are going to want to have 1394 connectors on their PCs and mobile devices so they can get video in and out of their PCs quickly. The consumer electronics industry adopted 1394 for digital electronics devices, and we’re definitely seeing the connectors becoming common on video devices... 1394, in my opinion, has critical mass.

"Then, once you've got 1394, it also becomes a candidate for things like printers, scanners or an additional hard disk. So the potential is there for 1394 to be a connector for a lot of PC devices. In addition, if you had two PCs with a 1394 socket on there, you could put a cable between the two of them, and they'd be networked."

We're not surprised by all this. USB remains a replacement for legacy standard PC ports, whereas 1394 provides connectivity for a new range of services. While motherboard vendors continue to support legacy ports, there's little motivation for users to move to USB. Since peripheral vendors are making the shift, users will ultimately have to too, but there's no way near the pressure on PC owners to do so as there was on, say, Mac users when Apple decided to drop its legacy ports in favour of USB.

USB may be built into almost all PCs that ship today, but that doesn't mean the majority of users are hooking peripherals up to their machines using that bus, not by a long chalk.

And if it's hard getting users to move from serial and parallel ports to USB 1.1, it's going to be even harder to get them to move to USB 2.0, at least until version 2.0 ports have completely replaced 1.1 connectors.

That gives 1394 plenty of time to come into its own as more users decided to hook up consumer electronics kit to their PCs. It's that CE indsutry support that gives 1394 its real lift over USB 2.0, since just being better technology is never enough, as the Betamax vs VHS debate proved. ®

Related Story

MS cools to USB 2.0, warms to 1394

Sponsored: Designing and building an open ITOA architecture