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December 16, 2005

Device Manufacturers Warm Up To FireWire

Courtesy of TechWeb News

Once threatened to be relegated to a backseat by USB 2.0, the 1394 standard, known as FireWire, is picking up renewed momentum with its 1394b version, 1394 Trade Association executive director James Snider said Friday.

In addition to design-ins by global PC and storage manufacturers, the technology is picking up usage in machine vision applications, such as digital cameras, as well as in new applications called for by the High Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance (HANA).

"The expanding design activity reflects FireWire's versatility as a multi-purpose technology," said Snider in an e-mail. "One of its major benefits is that it can be used for many purposes, and competes so well with single-purpose interface technologies such as serial ATA."

The 1394a/FireWire400 standard is designed into more than 65 percent of new notebooks today with the expected total expected to reach 48 million notebooks by the end of 2006. Snider said the more robust 1394b version with 800Mbps speeds are being designed into newer models.

The 1394 TA doesn't dispute the value of USB 2.0, which is typically less expensive and performs better than 1394 in some applications.

Snider pointed to machine vision applications as a rapidly-growing niche market for FireWire technology. "1394 is now everywhere in this important, growing market," said Snider. "An overwhelming majority of camera manufacturers now are providing 1394-equipped products."

Snider cited market research figures, which predict that machine vision applications will grow from 100,000 cameras in 2006 to nearly 300,000 in 2008.

As for HANA, the alliance is setting standards for hardware, software, and content for high-definition video that will support 1394 technology. The HANA alliance also supports audio.

Snider noted that new motherboards with 1394b are being developed by Intel, Gigabyte, Asustek, and Foxconn.

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