First FireWire Web Cam

Longtime Mac developer Orange Micro demonstrated the world's first FireWire Web cam, the iBOT FireWire Desktop Video Camera, for Macworld. This blue and white Web cam is capable of a sustained frame rate of 30 frames per second at a color image size of 640 by 480 pixels. The under-$150 iBOT, which works with FireWire-equipped PCs and Macs, is available online now, and should be in the retail channels within the next few weeks.

The iBOT shows near digital-video performance, thanks to its use of FireWire rather than USB, the technology used by most other cams. FireWire can support a sustained data transfer rate of up to 50MB a second, while USB can only manage 1.5MB a second. This bandwidth boost is what allows the iBOT to blow away the average Web cams by six or so frames a second at large image sizes.

The iBOT is primarily targeted to the videoconferencing market. When conferencing, the frame rate of the conference video depends more on your Internet access speed than the transfer rate of the Web cam. The iBOT will give users with faster Internet connections a more impressive videoconferencing experience.

Additionally, the iBOT comes with software for videoconferencing and basic video editing and can be used as an effective, if small, digital-video camera. "We sometimes call it the poor man's DV camera," joked Orange Micro's president, Arthur Scotten.

There are two iBOTs available now, the iBOT pro and the iBOT. The iBOT, which retails for $119, comes with a basic software package for video teleconferencing and photo editing. The iBOT Pro, which retails for $149, comes with an analog headset microphone, video teleconferencing software, photo-editing software, and video-editing software. Both versions of the iBOT ship with Mac and PC software.

Scotten also gave a brief presentation on USB 2.0, dubbed Fast USB by the USB Implementors Forum, the next generation of USB. USB 2.0 will offer sustained transfer rates of up to 60MBs a second -- surpassing even FireWire -- and will become available in the first quarter of 2001.

Apple is mum on whether or not it will adopt USB 2.0. Nevertheless, Orange Micro has announced three USB 2.0 products: a USB 2.0 hub, a USB 2.0 PCI card, and a USB 2.0/FireWire combination PCI card. Orange is the first Mac developer to announce USB 2.0 products, and among the first developers in the world to adopt the new technology.

Orange Micro is developing its own USB 2.0 Macintosh drivers. These drivers will be used in its own products, and Orange is making them available to other interested manufacturers of Mac USB products.

DAVID READ is a reporter for
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