08 December 2005

Firewire's even more on the way out

Back in October, I blogged that Firewire was finished. It's a subject that upsets loyal mac users because it's a technology (like Newton, SCSI, etc) that we BELIEVED was great and that we also shelled out hard-earned money for (drives, camcorders, iSights etc). I was led to my conclusion by the omission of Firewire from the newer iPod's and also an excellent article by James Wiebe posted on the WiebeTech website that I linked to in that blog entry above.

Today, I was contacted by someone I've never met, but feel I know well as a friend through countless interactions on one or more forum sites. He mentioned that the new iMac uses a USB iSight camera rather than a Firewire one (thanks Bosie!). While there could be many reasons for that other than the imminent death of Firewire (and let's face it, does it matter?), I then came across Jason O'Grady's blog at ZDNet. He is also addressing the Firewire-death thing and refers to rumours that the new Intel Macs will not sport Firewire.

Coincidentally, I had been postulating this as I struggle to work out how Apple will introduce Intel-based Macs alongside PowerPC-based systems - a topic I'll come to in more detail in the next few days (like the DRM stuff I promised which remains undelivered!). It seems to me that one way to avoid cannibalising the high-end lines is to remove "Pro" features from the consumer machines when something else (USB) is good enough. And, it also helps to squeeze a few more $ from the manufacturing costs of these machines (and cost is going to be a BIG factor in how they are judged).

While a pro-user today (in the old Apple sense of the word - a graphics/media person) may still require Firewire for sometime longer - like they did SCSI, the rest of us will have to make do with just USB which despite it's VHS comparison to the Betamax Firewire is probably good enough for what we need in the home/office environment. Of course, in the PC world, it would continue as a legacy port alongside Parallel ports and 3.5" floppy disc drives. But Apple doesn't believe in legacy ports. They balance a fine line between jumping to the new and upsetting their followers. I understand why they do this, but I'm not sure everyone is so forgiving.

So, Apple, for everytime you all gloat on how well you've done with the iPod, hark back to those things you haven't done so well but were sure they would be a huge success. You learn more through the humbling experiences than the triumphs everytime. And don't ever forget you've had a few humbling experiences in your time!

Footnote: For those who haven't followed this, USB will not completely take the place of Firewire. USB will be for lower-end devices; SATA is developing to satisfy the higher-end needs such as large storage and super-fast transfers that Firewire800 and future developments could have probably matched


Harry said...

It would be a huge problem for me if Apple dropped FireWire, seeing as it's used more than the USB ports on my machine (excluding keyboard and mouse)! I think it would be very foolish for them to do to save a few bucks and with such a large number of consumer camcorders using FireWire at the moment. Then bring in software such as iMovie.

This needs a bit more thinking. I would also take a look at the idea of the iMac using a USB webcam... iChat still doesn't support USB, and it would be too dangerous for Apple to make a special version that does suddenly allow it.

Ian Hobson said...

Thanks Harry.

Your views mirror a lot of what I've heard, and I think Apple will be treading a fine line if/when they do it.

However, I'm still sure that's the way it's heading - most new camcorders have USB outputs for instance and there are few firewire devices out there that don't have usb equivalents.

Incidentally, I didn't quite understand your comment about the iMac/iSight. Perhaps I wasn't clear. It is the CURRENT iMac (with iSight built-in) that uses USB so I'm told. Therefore iChat must now be able to support usb cameras without modification (you could do this in the past with shareware). I haven't got one, so can't confirm it. But it was news like this that made me conclude the end was in sight.

Perhaps we can hope the higher end machines to continue with it for some time longer (even Intel Macs). I also think Apple will only drop it, if they get relatively aggressive on price as well. In this way they are going for the masses, and the masses have (in the past) said they don't need firewire. Ignorant that may be, but it's the reality!