Twenty-five cents wont buy you a decent cup of coffee, but it will cover the license fee for putting an IEEE 1394 connection in a digital device. Thats a good deal. The high-speed serial connection of IEEE 1394a carries up to 400M bps; the forthcoming 1394b will deliver 3,200M bps over either a 4.5-meter cable or a 100-meter optical-fiber connection. Unlike Universal Serial Bus, with its high dependence on the central processing unit, IEEE 1394 is a peer-to-peer bus for up to 63 intelligent devices. And the chip set adds only $5 to the cost of a piece of gear.
What Windows 98 did for USB, Windows XP will do for IEEE 1394. Microsoft urges PC makers to include at least one back-panel IEEE 1394 port, plus at least two more upfront along with the "Designed for Windows XP" logo. A system thus equipped will be able to boot from an internal or external 1394 hard drive, engage in P2P cooperation, send and receive MPEG-2 video, and make IP connections. Some of these facilities are already present in Windows 2000 and Windows ME, but Windows XP will further smooth 1394 adoption with its support for virtual device drivers that bridge to legacy devices.
Much of whats in Windows XP is clearly aimed at the next wave of integrated digital media. The IEEE 1394 combination of high-speed data delivery and integrated device control is compelling: When I first plugged a Canon camcorder into a Sony notebook PC and got remote tape-editing control as well as near-real-time video acquisition, it gave me hope for the next generation of standards-based systems.
I dont need Windows XP to hold my hand with its condescending "experience scenarios," but expanded IEEE 1394 support makes me look forward to XPs arrival late this year.