Will Firewire Survive The Switch To Intel?

Arik Hesseldahl

One of the very best things about being a Mac user over the last several years has been Apple’s persistent support of the Firewire interface. It was Firewire that made the first iPod a success because it loaded music so much faster than other MP3 players on the market that used only a USB connection (USB at that point was still in its earlier, slower iteration at the time).

All but one of my external backup hard drives are Firewire drives. My newest one – a portable drive from Seagate runs on USB 2.0. It’s a fine drive, but it hooking it up to my Powerbook means using up both my USB ports. The connection cords is this strange Y-shaped affair. One port handles data, the other power. This is not nearly as elegant and simple as the portable Firewire drives I have come to enjoy over the years from vendors like Iomega, LaCie, SmartDisk and others.

So this is why I strongly dislike the idea of losing the Firewire ports on Intel-based Macs, as The Apple Core Blog suggested Thursday. Apple has migrated the iPod family of products away from the Firewire interface, and that to me is a troubling sign of things to come.

Remember if you will, that Apple was among the first, if not the first, to add USB ports to it machines. It did that with the iMac, and in fact generated quite a bit of controversy in doing it, and leaving out older interface technologies like SCSI. It’s early move toward USB spurred others in the Wintel world to follow suit, and now USB 2.0 is the common connection interface for pretty much any kind of peripheral device, be it a printer, digital camera or what have you.

However if the physical Firewire connections do go away, could that open up the possibility of a wireless Firewire interface? I wrote about using Ultra Wideband technology in my last column. UWB will in time cut so many cords, that the cords themselves will seem almost quaint looking back. I wonder if maybe Apple is getting ready to use the Intel transition to shove the industry in a new direction by showing how computer design is done. If that happens, then I won’t feel so bad losing my Firewire connection.

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