has announced the release of its Orange USB 2.0 CardBus PC card. The card provides Cardbus-equipped laptop computers — that includes PowerBooks built since the G3 “Wall Street” model — with four USB 2.0 ports.
USB 2.0 is the high-speed version of Universal Serial Bus, the interface that’s been a part of the Mac since the iMac was introduced in 1998. USB 1.1 is what’s currently in use on all Macs and PCs, but USB 2.0 is beginning to catch on, as well. Add-on cards are starting to go into circulation, and USB 2.0-compliant devices are expected to begin hitting store shelves shortly.
Although there’s no official word from Apple about if or when USB 2.0 will be built in to the Mac, the issue is certainly a contentious one with the Mac faithful. USB 2.0 offers similar bandwidth as FireWire (480 Mbps for USB 2.0 compared to 440 for FireWire), and they both offer a significant performance boost over USB 1.1’s limit of 1.2 Mbps. That transfer speed has limited USB 1.1’s usefulness as a means of connecting data-intensive peripherals like CD-R burners and video cameras, which perform much better and yield higher quality results with FireWire.
The card itself features a total of four USB 2.0 ports, which are downwardly compatible with the USB 1.1 standard as well. Orange Micro says the card can work in tandem with existing USB interfaces on the laptop, if so equipped.
Orange Micro indicates that the card includes Mac enablers, but the company points out that USB 2.0 support is provided specifically under Mac OS X, not Mac OS 9. A representative from Orange Micro was not immediately available for comment as we went to press with this article, however.
The card carries a suggested retail price of US$109. Look for it at retailers nationwide. Orange Micro made the announcement at this week’s USBIF Developers Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif. They’re demonstrating the card working on a Windows 98 system, however.