In case you haven’t noticed, FireWire goes by curiously large number of aliases for an established and successfully marketed IEEE standard. FireWire, iLink and 1394 are all marketed names for the IEEE 1394 peripheral connection standard and protocol. This causes confusion for consumers and journalists alike.
According to James Snider, executive director of the 1394 Trade Association, the Association’s original position on using a single name for the standard was to let the market decide. Unfortunately, this tactic has not worked out.
Two of the Association’s largest members, namely Apple and Sony, each independently developed their own names. Apple came up with FireWire and its cool looking radioactive logo. The ‘fire’ in FireWire really accentuates the speed in the protocol, and seems to be attractive to the DV customers that Apple originally courted with the technology. Sony came up with iLink, which it feels better represents the interconnectivity between computers and consumer electronic devices.
Because of their respective marketing strategies, both Sony and Apple are reluctant to move away from their different logos and name brands for IEEE 1394. This has caused an unacceptable level of branding schizophrenia, as consumers are not all aware that the different names denote products that will work together.
To further complicate the issue, other large PC manufacturers and device vendors want to create their own brands for IEEE 1394 products. PC vendors are reluctant to use Apple’s FireWire name and logo for a number of branding reasons. Gateway has been using its own logo for the IEEE 1394 ports on its PCs for almost a year now. Similar efforts have contributed to additional logo and brand proliferation.
A number of companies have tried to get behind simply calling the technology and all things that work with it, 1394. For well over two years, a logo ‘1394: Ask for it by number!’ has been used to try and create a single standard.
“This really was a false start, and failed to get any traction with consumers,” said Snider in a discussion with MacCentral earlier today. “Apple’s FireWire has the largest recognition among consumers — 75 percent said they knew what it was in an informal study,” said Snider. Snider suggests that iLink is not as well known, and 1394 is the least known name.
However, the larger problem is that consumers are not aware that these different brands work together. “Sony does usually say 1394 in addition to iLink, so consumers do see these as linked,” said Snider. But, there is still a question in consumers’ minds whether or not iLink, FireWire and 1394 are all interoperable.
“The problem is that there is no guaranteed interoperability,” said Snider. It is possible that some iLink products may not work with FireWire, and no formal testing has been done by anyone.
“We don’t want to further complicate matters by changing the name,” said Snider. “Also, we don’t have the marketing resources to out advertise an Apple or Sony.”
The 1394 Trade Association’s current focus is to come up with a name free logo that tells consumers that a product has been tested and works with any other product with that logo. Large and small companies could use that logo in addition to their own established branding strategies.
This would require a base level of conformance testing, but Snider says that the Association has a large compliance and interoperability group which could handle this.
“The 1394 Trade Association is reluctant to do this, but if we do nothing, we will have multiple logos in the industry,” said Snider.