1394 Makes Big Impression at Comdex

Imagine a dozen alley cats, who would normally claw at each other incessantly, purring happily together in a box. This gives you an idea of what's so remarkable about the 1394 Trade Association (TA) Theater Demo this week at Comdex in Las Vegas. Several consumer-electronics giants, such as Sony, Mitsubishi, Samsung, NEC, and Yamaha, as well as computer titans Intel, Compaq, and Microsoft, are pulling together to support the 1394 (FireWire) standard. It is hoped that FireWire will unite the consumer-electronics and computer worlds with a common digital interface. A recent agreement between the consumer-electronics and cable industries has established 1394 as the standard link between digital television sets and DTV set-top boxes.

The Comdex demonstration presents 1394-enabled products and technology in two typical settings: a living room complete with television, audio components, and various video products and a home office outfitted with a PC and various peripherals. The 1394 TA Theater Demo shows audio, video, and computing systems simply and efficiently connected through the 1394 multimedia bus. According to the 1394 TA, "the theater is constructed especially for Comdex 1998 and demonstrates both the simplicity of 1394 and the ability of multinational organizations to work together on new generations of technology. The demonstration illustrates the convenience of the 1394 multimedia bus, which moves video, audio, and graphics across the entire product spectrum."

In the living room's DTV center is Samsung's latest digital television, an NEC PC, a DV camcorder and digital VCR from Sony, and a D-VHS deck from Philips. Alongside the video center is an audio section with Yamaha's electronic piano and amplifier, a minidisc (MD) deck from Kenwood, a Pioneer CD changer, Sony's 1394-enabled VAIO PC, and other systems. Zayante, a new company dedicated to 1394 technology, is assisting Kenwood with its MD system.

Compaq's Device Bay system anchors the home-office section, which also includes a DV camcorder from Panasonic, 1394 hard drive from Seagate, Samsung monitor (with repeater), printer from Hewlett-Packard, and other peripherals. Mitsubishi is providing a set-top box, and Sony is contributing a security camera for the room. Inside the array of boxes and systems are 1394 drivers from Intel, control software from Seagate Software, cables and connectors from Molex, infrared and plastic optical fiber repeaters from NEC (all plates contributed by Leviton), and repeaters from Fuji Film and 3A International. Philips' wireless bridge and Yamaha gateways are also designed into the systems.

"The Comdex Theater represents the most exciting and comprehensive demonstration of interoperability seen in the electronics industry," says James Snider, chairman of the 1394 Trade Association. "It reflects the powerful momentum that we see for the 1394 multimedia bus as we head into 1999 and a new product design cycle."

According to Trade Association vice chair Ken Mano of Sony Corporation's Research Labs, "A very broad range of companies contributed state-of-the-art technology and worked very closely for several months to bring these capabilities together in one place. The theater proves the strength and simplicity of the 1394 standard, and it demonstrates a level of commitment for cross-company cooperation among the most impressive set of industry leaders ever assembled." A significant number of the 1394 products and technologies included in the Comdex Theater are now commercially available, and many other 1394 products will come to market in 1999.

A special 1394 Pavilion hosted by Digital Harmony Technologies will also be highlighted at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, January 7-10, 1999. More than 20 companies, including AMX Corp., California Audio Labs, Cirrus Logic, Escient, Go Video, Harman International, Leviton Telecom, Loewa, Madrigal, Meridian Audio, Monster Cable, Phast by AMX, Pioneer, Starmatix, and Whitejay International, will demonstrate 1394 connectivity among all types of audio, video, and control products.