The future of IEEE 1394 is quite promising. Its independence from a computer makes it an ideal method of data exchange for all digital devices. Firewire already appears in camcorders, digital cameras, hard drives, and a wide range of other computer peripherals. One of the more interesting devices to contain FireWire (or more precisely i.Link, Sony’s brand of 1394) is Playstation 2, bringing FireWire into the realm of console gaming. Industry experts also predict that FireWire will soon appear in digital VCRs, televisions, and other appliances that could rely on streamed media. An expansion of the 1394 standard is expected to be implemented by the end of this year. This addition to the standard calls for transfer speeds as fast as 3.2 Gbps and an extension of the maximum wire length. Other possible modifications to the 1394 standard include a smaller mini-jack connector and wireless capabilities.
FireWire is a serious competitor to the presently dominant SCSI and USB interfaces. Due to its higher speeds and superior design, FireWire could possibly replace these technologies for most functions. At present, FireWire does not pose a significant threat to USB, because USB is most commonly used for devices such as keyboards, printers, speakers, and mice, which do not require the high speeds and other advantages of the 1394 standard. USB has a price advantage, and FireWire will not be able to replace USB for these applications until it can be utilized at a comparable cost. SCSI, on the other hand, has little if any economic advantage over FireWire, yet was designed for the same kind of high-speed transfers that FireWire excels at. Since the 1394 interface is superior to SCSI in nearly every aspect of operation (speed, termination requirements, number of devices, hot-pluggability, cable length), SCSI’s years of industry dominance may soon be coming to a close. A potential challenge to FireWire is the emergence of USB 2.0. However, according to Scott Fierstein, technical evangelist for Microsoft, the threat posed by USB is overstated. “The end benefits of USB 2.0 sound similar to that of 1394: ease of use, PC peripheral interconnectivity and high bandwidth. Upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that the two technologies are fundamentally different and in different stages of development.” USB 2.0 is in an early stage of development and not expected on the market before mid-2001. Compare this to FireWire, which is already widely available and which is currently being researched for additional applications.