Today at (of all events) the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, CA,
unveiled two new devices that are compliant with the latest version of the IEEE 1394b specification. IEEE 1394 is the technical name of the Apple-developed FireWire technology.
The first incarnation of IEEE 1394b not only doubles the speed of the previous generation of FireWire devices to 800 megabits-per-second (Mbps), it also increases distances up to 100 meters, according to Randy Trost, worldwide PC connectivity market manager for Texas Instruments (TI). These enhanced features allow designers of personal computers, mass storage, consumer electronics and automotive applications to increase the functionality of designs while simplifying architecture and reducing costs, he added.
“Previously, 1394 could only be connected via copper cabling which was limited to 4.5 meters,” Trost said in a statement. “As the capabilities of 1394b become a reality and designers start to work with it, new markets and applications will emerge for this versatile and powerful interface. The higher speeds and extended distances are supported over media such as household telecommunications wiring and fiber optic cables. This makes 1394b a great choice for linking personal computers with cameras, set-top boxes, DVDs, gaming platforms and other exciting applications.”
TI’s demonstration at the Intel Developer Forum will feature two computers transmitting fully 1394b compatible, 800Mbps packets using 1394b cables from Molec. A 1394b Data Analyzer from Yokogawa Corp. will be connected to the two computers to validate 1394b data transmission. TI will also showcase the devices’ ability to be fully backward compatible with the existing IEEE 1394a-2000 (FireWire) standard.
Now for more technical specs. The new TI solutions include a device for managing the 1394 physical layer (PHY) and a chip for handling 1394’s protocols (link layer). TI is sampling the new physical and link layer 1394b devices to selected customers and software companies, pending final approval of the 1394b specification.
The 1394b link layer device is compatible with the Open Host Controller Interface 1.1 (OHCI) standard, ensuring compatibility with PC and Macintosh host systems that conform to OHCI. The OHCI standard supports features for higher-speed asynchronous and isochronous data transmissions and advanced power management techniques. TI’s new 1394b PHY chip is a three-port, bilingual device that is backward compatible with 1394a devices, supporting the data strobe encoding scheme of IEEE 1394a-2000, and the 8B/10B encoding scheme for 1394b.The new 1394b devices are expected to be available in volume production quantities during the second half of 2002.
No official word on what all this means for Apple. In talking with MacCentral at July’s Macworld New York, Jon Rubenstein, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware, wouldn’t speculate about the future incarnation of FireWire and USB 2.0 as they related to the Mac. However, it’s likely that both USB 2.0 and the next rev of FireWire will show up sooner rather than later in upcoming Mac hardware.
After all, Intel, one of the main forces behind USB 2.0, has been praising FireWire lately. In particular, Intel sees the technology as a way to help make digital video editing a mainstream use of the PC.