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MacBook peripheral predictions

October 17, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

AppleFirewire makes a (temporary) comeback?

Last year I speculated about the future of Firewire on the MacBook and came to the conclusion that the most logical path for Apple would be to build firewire into the Ethernet port via the new Firewire specification IEEE1394c.

Apple may have taken this in a new direction entirely (which frankly we should all expect from Apple by now!), if reports of Light Peak, the new peripheral bus from Intel are to be believed.  More on that later.

Firewire has now been reinstated to the MacBook line, albeit in a roundabout way.  Firewire 400 is still available on the white plastic MacBook which was the only surviving member of the old MacBook generation that wasn’t transitioned to the new Unibody enclosure borrowed from the MacBook Pro.  Those MacBooks paid the price for their svelte looks and lost their FireWire ports in the process.  Apple has now reinstated Firewire in the form of Firewire 800 to these and rebranded them as the new 13″ MacBook Pros.

So here’s the situation.  Once more every Mac has Firewire (apart from the freak of the family, the MacBook Air).  Although I haven’t had personal experience with the new models, presumably once more every Mac has Firewire Target Disk mode (once again excepting the freak).

So is Firewire back for good?  I don’t think so.  I think Apple was frankly surprised at the backlash to losing Firewire (especially after it was dropped from iPods with only a little angst) on the MacBook, and that was part of the reason to its comeback.  But I believe it will only be a temporary measure, until Light Peak replaces it.  When I first heard about Light Peak I was amazed that we didn’t have a peripheral bus based on fibre optics already, and that no-one seemed to have thought of it before.  I firmly believe that the future will be in wireless peripheral communication, but wires aren’t going away any time soon.  If we have to have wires, why not have one small, high capacity connection that can carry all types of communication now that fibre optic has matured to make cables flexible and durable enough for this purpose?

My only concern is that Light Peak will be developed as a master/slave architecture that will make technology like Target Disk mode and daisy chaining (that makes Firewire great) impossible to implement.  Its multi-device, multi-protocol design would most probably make that unlikely though.

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