USB 2.0 Spec to Debut

SAN FRANCISCO (04/25/2000) - The final specification for USB 2.0, boasting 40 times the bandwidth of the existing spec, is expected to be announced Wednesday and appear in peripherals by year end.

The successor to USB 1.1 is being announced at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here. Pat Gelsinger, vice president of Intel Corp.'s Desktop Products Group, is expected to detail the final spec in a keynote.

Plans for USB 2.0 were announced last year by the USB 2.0 Promoter Group, consisting of Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc., Microsoft Corp., NEC Technologies Inc., and Philips Electronics NV. USB 2.0 ports and peripherals could be widely available next year.

USB 2.0 extends the speed of connections between peripherals and PCs to up to 480 megabits per second, compared to the 12-mbps capacity of USB 1.1. This makes it especially useful for such high-bandwidth devices and applications as scanners, storage, and digital still and video cameras.

The new spec will be backward compatible so that existing USB devices can run on the new ports--although at their existing, slower speeds. However, USB 2.0 will let you simultaneously run multiple USB 1.x peripherals off the same port.

And you won't suffer the speed loss you'd experience with a USB 1.x port once the combined bandwidth of the devices exceeds the 12-mbps maximum of that port.

Although USB 2.0 will be even faster than the current IEEE 1394 standard (also called FireWire by Apple Computer Inc. and ILink by Sony Corp.), which tops out at about 400 mbps, Intel officials say they view the two specs as complimentary rather than competing. That's because IEEE 1394 is a peer-to-peer connection that will appear on a wide variety of consumer electronics, while USB 2.0 is specific to PC peripherals.