NEW ORLEANSA murky patent picture could slow adoption of the 1394 interface just when the fast link is seeing significant deployments, a Microsoft Corp. executive warned this week.
Designers lack a way to license key intellectual property behind data-transport protocols used for copy-protected versions of the 1394 interface, said Carl Stork, general manager of the Windows hardware strategy group. But James Snider, chairman of the 1394 Trade Association, expressed surprise at Stork's comments and declared that he will "go talk to Microsoft and nail this issue down."
At Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, Stork said, "Some of the control protocols and content protection technologies still have undefined intellectual property regimes that make secure 1394 links a challenge."
The business model has to be "transparent," he said, adding, "It will undermine the adoption of 1394 if this is not addressed."
Stork referred to an unclear patent situation with key data transport protocols defined in the International Electrotechnical Commission's (IEC) standard 6183, parts 2-6, which cover mechanisms for sending secure content over any bus. No organization now acts as a patent pool or clearinghouse for the intellectual property behind the techniques, many of them believed to be developed by Japan's largest consumer electronics companies. That's making some PC makers reluctant to use the secure techniques to protect movies or audio recording sent over products that use 1394 or any other fast bus.
The intellectual property behind the 1394 bus itself is controlled by a patent pool that charges a royalty of 25 cents per system shipped. Other content protection technology developed by the so-called 5C group is handled through a separate patent pool. But engineers for Microsoft and other companies here said it is not clear who owns the intellectual property behind the data transport techniques defined in the IEC standards or on what basis it could be licensed.
Snider, a 1394 marketer for Texas Instruments as well as the trade association chairman, said he will discuss Stork's concerns with Microsoft. But outside of the current copy-protection issue, 1394 is seeing significant adoption, Snider said. To date, more than 10 million camcorders, along with 8 million PCs and notebooks, are already using 1394.
In 2000, Snider said, he expects to see those numbers rise significantly. But representatives of the 1394 Trade Association said that the biggest push for 1394 will come from the sale of video editing software. Video editing, they say, will drive the purchase of PCs, notebooks, camcorders and storage devices.