Unlike FireWire, a
USB controller is required to control the bus and data transfer, a key fact that draws attention to the third reason why FireWire did not make it: the politics of control between the PC industry and the consumer electronics industry.
For many years, Intel has subsidized and supported
emerging technologies that "burden the host" - meaning games, video conferencing,
video editing and other bandwidth-eating activities that compel users to upgrade
to faster CPUs (Intel calls it "Job-One"). FireWire's
design, along with a reluctance to embrace
a technology that Intel does not directly control, made it
Conversely, the consumer electronics industry (led by Sony with their iLink DV camera port) stuck with IEEE 1394 precisely because it is not controlled by the whims of the PC industry, and because FireWire really does not even need a computer to work.
An uneasy truce has existed for the past five years, with both sides reciting a mantra that the two technologies "complement, not compete" with each other. But that has now changed with the introduction of USB 2.0. Clearly, the gloves are off, and the two standards are competing directly. The digital video industry has committed itself heavily to FireWire, and is extremely unlikely to abandon the standard, even if USB 2.0 enjoys popular acceptance in the PC market.
The upshot? Don't become "the donkey who starved to death between two piles of hay." If you ever intend to do video editing on your PC, get a FireWire card. If you do not intend to do video editing on your PC, get a USB 2.0 card or ensure that your next new motherboard has USB 2.0 support.
Perhaps the best choice is to get a PCI card that combines both, like the Adaptec DuoConnect
. The prices are low and quality high for both technologies today.
Is FireWire inevitably destined for oblivion as in the inevitable "VHS vs. Betamax" comparison? Let's not assign "inevitability" to a PC standard over a consumer electronics standard. More likely, it's the annual Mustang vs. Camaro horsepower race, where each ekes out an incremental horsepower increase.
As much as we would like to consider the PC industry as the almighty
setter-of-standards, the consumer electronics industry is still a far larger
market. Like with muscle cars, a healthy competition between FireWire and USB
will spur development of higher-performance peripherals that will benefit us all
in the end.