The Trade Association was working on its own new compliance logo in January when Apple offered to license the trademark for the FireWire name and logo to the group. The logo was reworked slightly by the association to show that a company has passed the rigorous compliance tests they put products through.
What’s in a name?
Mac users have known IEEE 1394 as FireWire since Apple first started supporting the technology in 1999. Allowing the Trade Association to adopt the name and logo will hopefully help end some of the confusion from consumers about what the technology is and what to call it.
“FireWire has more traction as a name than IEEE 1394,” Richard Davies from the 1394 Trade Association told MacCentral.
Apple licensed the FireWire name and logo to hundreds of companies over the past couple of years at no cost, but having the Trade Association officially adopt FireWire “consolidates the names under one brand, which significantly reduces consumer confusion,” said Tom Boger Apple’s director of Power Mac Product Marketing.
FireWire has become the ubiquitous name that everyone knows the technology as — in fact, as Boger pointed out, FireWire was even the answer to a question on the popular TV series, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Sony’s iLink not going away
While the association has the exclusive rights to distribute the new logo and FireWire name to companies that pass the compliance test, using the FireWire name and logo are not mandatory.
iLink is the name Sony Corp. uses to describe IEEE 1394, or FireWire. Even though the Trade Association officially adopted FireWire, the iLink name and brand will not be going away anytime soon.
“Sony didn’t object strenuously and the proposal pretty much sailed through the Trade Association,” said Davies. “They had iLink licensed and they preferred it — nothing preempts them from using iLink for commercial purposes. The Trade Association feels FireWire is better because it’s been fairly well accepted.”
FireWire vs. USB 2.0
According to market research firm In-Stat/MDR FireWire will be included on more than 64 million personal computers and nearly 100 million digital devices by the end of this year.
As a high-speed connection protocol, many companies in the video industry have adopted FireWire where it is included in camcorders and high-end cameras.
“There is a certain market for FireWire — it’s very good in video, for example,” said Brian O’Rourke, an analyst with In-Stat/MDR. “FireWire will be successful to the extent that those product segments are successful.”
Used mainly to connect peripherals to a computer, USB 1.1 gave the much faster FireWire no competition in transferring data from one device to another. However, USB 2.0, with faster speed than its predecessor, may tread on FireWire’s territory.
“The greater speed of USB 2.0 will allow it to become more competitive with FireWire in consumer electronic segments like digital still cameras and digital music players, but I think there is room in the market for both technologies,” said O’Rourke.
Apple currently doesn’t offer USB 2.0 in any of its computers, although a card is available from third-party vendors.
FireWire to double speed
The next version of FireWire, commonly referred to as IEEE 1394b, promises to increase the speed of the current specification. The new specification was finalized in January and began the documentation process in March.
The new specification will double the speed of FireWire to 800 megabits per second, once again putting it out of the reach of USB 2.0, which runs at 480 megabits per second. While it has taken several years to move FireWire to the next level, the next upgrade to 1600 megabits per second will not take nearly as long.
The reason 1394b has taken so long is because the new specification includes major architectural changes, according to Davies.
A future upgrade based on the 1394b specification will operate at 1600 megabits.
The biggest change for FireWire may not be the doubling of speed, but the distance provided by the specification. The current version of FireWire works at a distance of 12-15 meters (36-45 feet) — The ‘b’ spec will increase that distance to 115 meters or 345 feet.
“The distance provided by ‘b’ is critical. Some people feel the distance is the biggest advantage of the new spec because it opens up a whole new set of applications,” said Davies. “Not only will this affect home networking but the vehicle backbone as well. The Trade Association has developed a prototype automobile FireWire backbone, but it’s next generation.”
Apple wouldn’t comment on when customers could expect to have the next version of FireWire on their computers.