Once upon a time the Mac vs. PC debate found a kind of synecdoche in the FireWire vs. USB debate. FireWire had been invented by Apple way back in 1986 essentially to replace SCSI. USB 1.0 arrived on the scene in 1995 from Intel, Microsoft, and a few others. Somewhat ironically, however, it was the original iMac that gave USB a needed kick-start in adoption. In any case, for a while there was a clear sense that FireWire was the Mac peripheral interface in contrast with the Wintel USB, and even now FireWire 400 tends to outperform the higher-spec’ed USB 2.0 on Macs in the real world. Nonetheless, with Apple moving to Intel there has a been a notable shift in Cupertino away from the interface Apple invented (witness the USB-only iPods), and with the forthcoming USB 3.0 standard and the increasing prevalence of eSATA the future looked somewhat bleak for FireWire.

But FireWire is not going down without a fight. The industry trade group has announced a new standard, FireWire S3200 which will use the same connectors as FireWire 800 but deliver approximately 4 times the performance. What’s interesting to me is the question of whether and how far Apple will go to support the new standard. Is FireWire destined to become the bastard stepchild or will Apple once again reclaim its old standard and live happily ever after?

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