There was a time when FireWire presented a genuine challenge to the supremacy of USB, but not anymore…
Still, someone has forgotten to pass this memo onto the industrious chaps at the 1394 Trade Association because once again the standards body is threatening to ruffle the feathers of its more famous rival.
FireWire ‘S3200' is the specification proposed to do it and with a potential realisable maximum of 3.2Gbps (Gigabits) it is 4x the speed of the existing FireWire 800 standard with the 1394 TA claiming real world data speeds of nearly 400MBps.
Other benefits of FireWire S3200 are its use of existing cables and connectors already deployed in FireWire 800 as well as the ability to power external devices such as hard drives - a power/performance ratio unmatched by USB 2.0 while the zippy eSATA does not provide electrical power. Furthermore, S32000 will maintain its data rates even over distances in excess of 100 metres.
"The S3200 standard will sustain the position of IEEE 1394 as the absolute performance leader in multi-purpose I/O ports for consumer applications in computer and CE devices," said 1394 Trade Association Executive Director James Snider in a hopeful tone. "There is a very clear migration path from 800 Megabits per second to 3.2 Gigabits per second, with no need for modifications to the standard and no requirement for new cables or connectors."
Even more encouraging - ratification could arrive as quickly as January 2008.
Sadly for FireWire S3200 however there is trouble on the horizon in the shape of USB 3.0. Backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1, USB 3.0 will boost potential data transfer rates of up to 4.8Gbps (10x that of USB 2.0) and maintain its ability to act as a power source. On the other hand, USB is notorious for its real-world drop offs so whether there will be much performance advantage over FireWire S3200 is debatable. It also isn't expected to appear on PCs until Q3 2008.
Still, for competition's sake, the emergence of S3200 is a good thing - but as to whether we really need our connectivity options complicated once again, that's another question entirely…