updated 12:00 pm EST, Sat December 15, 2007
A future version of FireWire will quadruple the speed of today's fastest version, the IEEE 1394 Trade Association has revealed. Officially known as S3200, the format will build on the same connectors and technology used for today's FireWire 800 but operate at a peak of 3.2 gigabits per second, or 400 megabytes per second; this is four times the 800 megabits and 100 megabytes possible through the earlier standard. It does so without losing the qualities that makes FireWire unique, the Association says. Unlike USB, the format uses very little processor overhead and operates near its peak as long as the source is quick enough. It also supplies more power than either USB or external Serial ATA. As a result, the format can transmit quickly at distances of 328 feet or more when using specialized cables.
S3200 is expected to first be used for fast storage, such as multi-disk external hard drives, but should also be useful for consumer electronics. As it preserves copy protection in the same way that FireWire 400 and 800 do, the new standard can be used for cable set-top boxes and other devices where operators may need to control the video output. Camcorders and HDTVs should also be able to use the extra speed over time.
The IEEE 1394 group says it will begin to ratify S3200 in January but should complete the process as soon as early February, clearing the route for shipping products later in the year. No company has officially committed to updated FireWire products, though Apple is the only major computer maker that currently incorporates FireWire 800 as a standard feature on some of its systems, including the aluminum iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro.