Thursday, December 20, 2007

FireWire fizzles

We at EE Times have covered IEEE 1394 aka FireWire for years, but this patently good technology may be on its last legs.

I have a story coming in Monday’s paper (I hope) that quotes senior engineering management at both Sony and Moto saying—unprompted--its time to say bye-bye to this interconnect. Smacks of a kiss of death to me.

Brian O’Rourke of In-Stat noted the technology is good but has always been the second or third choice in any given market. It takes a back seat to USB in PCs, HDMI in TVs and set-tops and MOST in cars. A Rodney Dangerfield of interfaces!

Why? It used to be faster than any alternative. But I guess there wasn’t demand for its 400 Mbit/s data rate circa 1993. Then there was the dollar-per-port royalty from Apple that apparently thought this was a product not a technology. Then the FCC foisted it on unwilling cable-TV companies who put chips in boxes without ports. Oi vay!

Kudos to the 1394 Trade Association and their members for their candor and persistence with efforts like HANA. At CES, the HANA 2.0 software will be shown running premium content from NBC Universal from three cable-TV systems across five media types, and the group is talking up its long-planned 3.2 Gbit/s version.

But HDMI seems to have won the TV and set-top, we don’t need another home network type (especially not an interconnect masquerading as a network) and there are plenty of alternative links with speeds as fast, features as rich, power consumption as low and prices driven to the floor thanks to mass adoption--some of them are even wireless.

Sign of the times: I met an EE from one 1394 company at the MoCA conference last month scouting around for new growth opportunities. Maybe there is just one or two more stories to write about this technology—its demise and burial.

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