Firewire Over Ethernet? Maybe If We Ask Loudly Enough

Clearly, Apple’s decision to leave out FireWire ports on the MacBook line has ruffled some feathers. For their part, Apple claims to have left it out to save the $0.25 per port licensing fee attached to including the hardware, which, when considered on the scale of a massive production run, does amount to significant savings. Of course, they recoup some of that amount as royalties, since they are a FireWire patent holder, and therefore a member of the 1394 Trade Association. Which has led some to claim that the decision to axe FireWire was not a cost-saving measure, but instead a profit-boosting one, by forcing consumers who need FW to scale up to a MacBook Pro.

Since Macs support internet and disk sharing over FireWire, it’s only natural to consider the possibility of running FireWire in a similar manner over Ethernet, allowing users to to perhaps plug their video cameras or audio peripherals into older Macs to perform large transfers if they have one, or into specially designed FireWire-to-Ethernet cables or adapters.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to run FireWire over Ethernet using current standards (IEEE 1394/a/b). According to ZDNet, FireWire has more in common with SATA or SCSI which is “dumb” (point-to-point), than Ethernet, which is “smart” (co-ax cable was its “dumb” predecessor).

A new standard in the process of being developed, IEEE 1394c, would allow FireWire to run over cat5 twisted pair cables (Ethernet), at speeds of up to 800Mbps. Implementing IEEE 1394c would require support from Apple via an adapter or changes onboard. Since it’s ultimately still in Apple’s hands, demand from irate consumers will have to outweigh any financial benefit they stand to lose from giving users a cheaper option than upgrading to the Macbook Pro. If the IEEE 1394c standard is passed in time, the speculation is that Apple could include FireWire over Ethernet support with Snow Leopard.

Would this move restore your faith in Cupertino, FireWire faithful, or is it too little, too late?

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