FireWire Burns a Little Brighter

Last week, Apple Computer, Compaq Computer, Panasonic, Philips Electronics, Sony, and Toshiba announced their support of the high-speed IEEE 1394 digital interface and their intention to form a patent pool to efficiently license patents required to implement the standard. The six companies say they will work together to create a joint licensing program and promote the industry-wide adoption of IEEE 1394.

"IEEE 1394 is poised to become the most widely used industry standard to interconnect consumer-electronics and personal-computer devices," says Steve Jobs, Apple's iCEO (interim CEO). "We want to pave the way for both the consumer-electronics and the personal-computer industries to adopt this powerful digital interface."

Toshiba's Tetsuya Mizoguchi says, "Toshiba expects this patent pool to provide the whole multimedia industry with excellent opportunities for growth and diversification in the high-speed IEEE 1394 digital-interface standard technologies for personal computers and consumer electronics." Sony's Kunitake Ando adds, "Today's agreement solidifies IEEE 1394's position as the industry-standard digital interface connection for PCs, computer peripherals, and digital A/V products."

Apple invented this interface technology, which they called FireWire, in the late '80s, and it was adopted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as an industry standard back in 1995. Offering data-transfer rates of up to 400 megabits per second, IEEE 1394 is becoming the standard for transferring digital video; over 3 million digital camcorders with built-in 1394 interfaces have been sold to date, and it will probably become the conduit between digital set-top boxes and DTVs. In addition, it's poised to become the next-generation standard for connecting personal computers to high-speed peripherals such as printers, scanners, and disk drives.

"Compaq supports the wide adoption of IEEE 1394 technologies and the efforts of the 1394 patent consortium," says Compaq's Jerry Meerkatz. "We believe this alliance will ensure acceptance of this standard throughout the personal-computer and consumer-electronics industries by making the licensing of the key technologies easy and affordable. The world is evolving into a digitally based workplace, and these technologies will allow for broader connections between digital consumer-electronics equipment and personal computers, making it easier to use products."

According to Eddy Odijk of Philips Consumer Electronics, "IEEE 1394 offers a simple standard connection for consumers so that they can easily connect all kinds of consumer-electronics and PC products. Its high speed makes it the viable digital interface for advanced, real-time multimedia applications in the home-network environment. We are confident that licensing initiatives will fuel rapid adoption of IEEE 1394 throughout the CE and PC industries."