FireWire holding against USB: Analysts

Apple's FireWire technology for high-speed connections between peripherals and PCs appears to be making a comeback.
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor
Apple's FireWire technology for high-speed connections between peripherals and PCs appears to be making a comeback, partly driven by increasing demand in consumer electronics, according to a report from research firm In-Stat/MDR.

Apple began marketing the technology more heavily last year, partly in response to increased competition from USB 2.0, and its efforts are now beginning to pay off, In-Stat found.

The current IEEE 1394a FireWire technology has been integrated into chipsets from Silicon Integrated Systems and Nvidia, while the first PCs incorporating the faster IEEE 1394b specification were released early this year, paving the way for IEEE 1394b devices later in 2003.

An additional boost is coming from emerging consumer electronics devices such as DVD recorders, set top boxes and digital televisions, the company said, partly due to regulatory decisions in the US.

The Federal Communications Commission last year mandated that, as of July 2007, all US TV sets with screen sizes of 13 inches and up must have high-definition digital tuners built in, which In-Stat said will increase the market for high-speed digital links such as FireWire. The NCTA (National Cable & Telecommunications Association) and the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) also mandated FireWire as one of two digital interfaces linking digital set top boxes to televisions.

As a result of these changes, growth for FireWire in set-top boxes, DVD recorders and digital televisions will be "substantial", the firm predicted. Peripherals such as external hard drives and recordable DVD drives will also favour FireWire, although growth in printers and scanners will be negative.

On the PC front, where USB 2.0 is strongest, laptop computers will drive FireWire growth, with some consumer desktops also incorporating the technology, but there will be almost no growth in business desktops, In-Stat projected.

This year, almost all new PCs will include USB 2.0, according to In-Stat figures. However, FireWire has some advantages that the rival technology lacks, including the ability to carry power to a device and to connect two devices without the presence of a PC.

Matthew Broersma reported from London for ZDNET U.K.

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