Next-generation FireWire finalized, but USB 3.0 will be faster

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recently approved IEEE 1394-2008, a faster version of the standard known to most simply as FireWire and used for connecting PCs with digital video devices or external hard drives.

"The new standard includes all of the amendments, enhancements and more than 100 errata which have been added to the base standard over the last 12 years," IEEE chair of the working group Les Baxter said in a statement. "This update provides developers with a single document they can rely upon for all of their application needs."

Specifically, the new classification will help increase the speed of FireWire from its current maximum of 800Mbit per second (with FireWire 800) to up to 3.2Gbit per second. Along with the S3200 that offers 3.2 Gbps transfer rates, the IEEE also approved S1600, which will offer 1.6 Gbit/sec. IEEE 1394 will eventually be scaled up to 6.4Gbit/sec, the organization indicated.

Both interfaces can be used with existing FireWire 800 cables, easing the migration for users of the current standard.

FireWire has been popular among Sony and Apple products, but most of the PC industry still relies on USB to help power devices and transfer data. Even with the anticipated speed increase, it's still highly unlikely that FireWire will be widely adopted.

Still, the format's backers say that after being published in 1995, more than 500 million IEEE 1394 ports have been manufactured.

The IEEE expects FireWire 3200 to roll out in October. Products with the new standard will not go on sale immediately, manufacturers will need to implement the technology into future products. Apple is largely expected to be the first company using FireWire 3200.

The October launch is absolutely crucial because the Intel-backed USB 3.0 is expected to arrive by the end of 2008, bringing with it a maximum speed of 4.8Gbps. USB 2.0 offers speeds of 480Mbit per second, which still gave manufacturers a use for FireWire 800.

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