SAN JOSE, Calif. Tomorrow's FireWire interconnects will quadruple in maximum data rates, hitting 3.2 Gbits/second thanks to the S3200 specification announced late Thursday (Dec 13) by the 1394 Trade Association. The group expects to ratify the final spec by early February, aiming it as a low-cost alternative to HDMI for carrying uncompressed video.
The FireWire interface has long been touted as a conduit for multimedia in consumer electronics devices thanks to its high throughput and support for copy protection. However, to date the technology has not gotten the traction of other interconnects such as USB in cameras and HDMI in digital TVs.
FireWire does appear in a wide variety of set-top boxes thanks to government mandates for use of the copy protected link. In an effort to extend that position, the trade group also announced it is developing a version of FireWire that runs over coax cables without disrupting cable TV program content.
Companies including Symwave, Texas Instruments, LSI Corp., and Oxford Semiconductor helped define S3200 which specifies the electrical operation of the 3.2 Gigabit mode first defined by the IEEE 1394b-2002 standard.
"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 James Snider, executive director of the 1394 Trade Association in a prepared statement.
The S3200 spec uses cables and connectors already deployed for today's 800 Mbits/s FireWire products, and new products will be backward compatible with existing interfaces. The new standard does not change arbitration, data, and service protocols in an effort to simplify any software and silicon changes for vendors.
The trade group said it expects users to get actual delivered payload rates of up to 400 Mbytes/s with the new spec. The association said the 800 Mbit/s version in use today delivers up to 90 Mbytes/s in some hard drive applications.
More than one billion FireWire ports have been shipped to date in computers, cameras, televisions, hard drives, and musical instruments, the association claims.