The 1394 Trade Association unveiled the new S3200 specification which will quadruple the speed of FireWire to 3.2 gigabits per second.
The new speed uses the cables and connectors already deployed for FireWire 800 products, making the transition forward easy and convenient for 1394 product vendors and their customers. Because the 1394 arbitration, data, and service protocols were not modified for S3200, silicon and software vendors can deploy the faster speed FireWire quickly and with confidence that it will deliver its full potential performance. The S3200 specification is expected to be ratified by early February.
The S3200 specification brings FireWire to this new performance level without compromising existing features. For example, FireWire provides much more electrical power than any other interface, freeing users from inconvenient AC power adapters. FireWire products built using S3200 will directly connect to every previously released FireWire product. Alternative cable options are available to carry FireWire over long distances - 100 meters or more - even at high speeds.
Also, FireWire’s peer-to-peer architecture allows products to operate with a computer - or without one. This superior combination of features is not found in any other technology, which explains why over one billion FireWire ports have been shipped to date, on products as diverse as computers, cameras, televisions, hard drives, and musical instruments. IEEE 1394 also is deployed in vital applications in state-of-the-art aircraft and polar orbiting satellites.
One of the strongest markets today for FireWire is storage for computers. The best hard drives with FireWire 800 can move data almost three times as fast as the best hard drives with USB 2.0. Also, FireWire provides much more electrical power than USB, so FireWire-equipped hard drives can operate without an AC adapter, and at high rotational speeds. USB hard drives can fail to work from USB power, or require a second USB cable for power, or use the lowest-performance drive mechanisms because so little power is available.
With S3200 this power advantage for FireWire is fully preserved. S3200 also makes FireWire so fast that users will see no advantage from eSATA. Both interfaces are much faster than any modern hard drive mechanism, but eSATA does not provide electrical power to operate a drive. On a computer, an eSATA port is far less flexible than a FireWire port, because many more devices can connect to FireWire. For these reasons, S3200 makes FireWire the superior choice for future external storage products.
The new FireWire standard is pretty fast but I doubt it will be able to punch USB off its throne. The new USB 3.0 specification will be rolled out in the first half of 2008 and will offer 4.8 gigabits per second, ten times as much bandwidth as the current USB 2.0 specification.