Vendors debut USB 2.0, IEEE1394 peripherals

The gloves came off last week in the battle over next-generation computer interfaces as Japanese vendors took the wraps off a wider range of IEEE1394-based products while also showing their first devices that support the new USB 2.0 interface at the World PC Expo show, held just outside of Tokyo.

The IEEE1394 standard, which is sometimes called Firewire or iLink, has been around for some time although it is only now beginning to gain support as a wider range of peripherals and PCs that support the standard come on the market. USB 2.0, which counts chip giant Intel Corp. as one of its primary backers, is the new kid on the block and is expected to start being built into PCs and peripherals from later this year or early next year.

In terms of performance, the jury is still out on which has the edge but in terms of basic numbers, USB 2.0's 480M bps (bits per second) maximum data transfer rate exceeds the 400M bps of IEEE1394. Vendors are also yet to pass judgment and the exhibition showed a growing number of peripherals from a selection of companies, both large and small, supporting both standards.

IO Data Device Inc. unveiled a broad line-up of products supporting each technology. In the USB 2.0 corner was a DVD-RW drive and a portable 24-speed CD-RW drive. The company also showed off, a USB 2.0 PC Card interface card to allow the new drives to be connected to notebook computers until USB 2.0 connectivity becomes more common. Its new IEEE1394 peripherals included a pair of external MO (Magneto Optical) disk drives that support 640M-byte and 1.3G-byte disks and will cost 34,800 yen (US$296) and 56,800 yen respectively when they go on sale later this month.

Other companies unveiling IEEE1394-based devices included Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., better known as Panasonic, which was displaying an upgraded version of its external DVD-RAM drive, now with added support for DVD-R disks. The drive will go on sale next week and carries a 64,800 yen price tag. Yano Electric Co. Ltd. was displaying a pair of 40G-byte and 80G-byte external hard disk drives.

For the USB 2.0 camp, Yamaha Co. Ltd. was showing CD-R/RW drive that will be available from mid-October and Melco Inc. had a pair of external hard disk drives, with capacity of 40G bytes and 60G bytes, that will be available in late September at 28,000 yen and 33,000 yen respectively.

There were some products on display that support both standards. Nagase Co. Ltd. offered somewhat of a compromise with its DVD-RAM/R drive, which offers both a USB 2.0 and IEEE1394 interfaces while Melco has a CD-RW drive, available now for about 24,300 yen, that supports both IEEE1394 and the current USB 1.1 interface.

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