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Apple to extinguish FireWire?

Intel-based iBooks to be USB 2.0 only, website claims

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Is Apple about to drop FireWire - the connectivity standard it created and for so long fostered - from the Mac line-up?

Certainly, that's what Apple notebook-oriented website O'Grady's PowerPage suggests, without citing specific sources. Apple has already dropped FireWire from the latest iPods - much to the annoyance of numerous Register readers with older, USB 1.1-equipped Macs - so it's clearly shifting its allegiance to USB 2.0, which while technologically inferior to FireWire is fast enough for almost all PC-peripheral connections.

According to O'Grady, the upcoming Intel-based iBooks will lack FireWire and x86 PowerBooks will have a single FireWire 800 port for digital video enthusiasts and professionals to make use of. And 1394, as it's also known, will continue in non-PC applications.

Apple pioneered the use of FireWire, for high-bandwidth peripherals like external hard drives and digital video cameras. Ironically, the technology, once Mac-only, has been increasingly appearing on Wintel machines, one of the few, if not the only, Mac technology to migrate outward rather than inward.

Still, the key advantage of FireWire - its peer-to-peer nature, meaning you don't need a PC intermediary - has proved of limited value, especially in the consumer space and in a world where computer companies want you to connect kit to their machines, not directly to other devices.

Still, if Apple does start dropping FireWire ports, it will annoy numerous Mac users whose external hard drives and older, pre-USB 2.0 iPods become compatible no longer. But we've been here before, with Apple's original adoption of USB over its own, ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) and serial port interfaces, not to mention its decision to drop SCSI support for FireWire.

It's tempting to see Apple's move - if the prediction proves accurate - as a sign of Intel's strength in the two firms' new relationship. Intel has long wavered in its support for 1394, but always kept true to USB, and is at the forefront of initiatives to create a wireless version of the Universal Serial Bus. But Apple's motives may be more prosaic: why pay for 1394 connectors and controller chips when relatively few folk are using them? ®

Bootnote As a number of readers have pointed out, such a scheme seems a trifle tough on the countless iSight users out there. But maybe the new, Intel-based iBook/PoweBook will have a built-in iSight as per the latest iMac. Upgrade, you lot, upgrade...

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