February 24, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Apple takes a step away from FireWire

FireWire is still Apple Computer's baby, but the proud parent is cutting the cord.

With the latest crop of iPods, Apple is no longer including a FireWire cable in the box. The music players will still work with FireWire, if a cord is purchased separately, but only a USB 2.0 cable comes with the device. The move is part of a gradual shift on Apple's part to standardize the iPod on USB, which is far more common in the Windows world.

Although Apple's embrace has been gradual over several years, it is still a big shift for a company that helped develop the standard behind FireWire, technically known as IEEE 1394, and has been one of its biggest proponents.

IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian identified two main reasons for the shift. First, it used to not be possible to recharge the device via USB.


What's new:
With its new lower-priced generation of iPods, Apple isn't including a FireWire cord, providing users users the more PC-friendly USB option.

Bottom line:
The move saves Apple a few bucks and admits that USB, not FireWire, is the dominant connection technology.

More stories on iPod

"They've been wedded to FireWire for a long time because it allowed them to charge (the iPod)," she said.

The other issue is cost. With the latest round of products, Apple cut its prices. By omitting the FireWire cord, the company can gain back some of the lost profit margins.

"It's more cost efficient to ship with one cable rather than two, and USB is more broadly supported on both platforms," Kevorkian said. "FireWire, it ships on some PCs, but not the vast majority."

Nonetheless, some Mac owners were rankled by the move, saying that as recently as a year or two ago many Macs didn't include a USB 2.0 port. As of Wednesday night, more than 1,300 people had signed an online petition calling on Apple to again include a FireWire cable with iPods.

Gary Reich, an Annapolis, Md.-based boating publication editor and owner of three Macs, said he launched the petition because he "felt a little betrayed."

"We, as dedicated users and supporter of your hardware and software are completely dismayed at your recent decision to discontinue standard FireWire support for the iPod music player line," the petition states, going on to note that "It is very unfortunate that you have left your faithful out in the dark on this one."

When the iPod debuted in 2001, it used only FireWire, and even the second crop of iPods--the first to support Windows--lacked USB support entirely. It wasn't until April 2003, with the dock connector-based iPods, that Apple first offered a USB 2.0 option. And then it was USB 2.0, which had to be bought separately as a $19 extra.

But there are clearly more and more Windows users that are looking for an iPod.

Shortly after Apple started selling a Windows-compatible iPod, the company said the breakdown of Mac versus PC users was about evenly split. But, at

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Add your comment
There's some logic...
... to Apple's decision. USB2 is the PC standard, even tho it's
slower than Firewir. (Yeah, I know USB's 480 vs Firewire's 400
speed, but that's surge mode. Sustained speeeds are quite a bit
different.) Anyhow, Firewire cables are cheap, easy to come by if
you don't already have a drawerfull, and leaving them out saves
Apple money and time. If the 'missing' Firewire cable is all
anyone has to c omplain about, one suspects that they have far
too kmuch time on their hands.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
it's not just any old FW cable
iPods use a DOCK cable. It's proprietary. Therefore, you'll need
the iPod FireWire cable to make it work, since that's the interface
port for all perpherials and connection to computer, even power.
The $19 price is so cheap, I don't understand why someone who
is willing to spend $199 on something cannot shell out another
$19 to make it work "as fast as possible." You see this
everywhere: you want a new beetle convertible, it's $500 for the
wind deflector that snaps into the backseat. You want a new
universal remote? Gotta get batteries. Mac users are just spoiled,
is what it is.
Posted by durtydiesel (6 comments )
Link Flag
Nothing wrong with this...
It's a move on the part of Apple to maximize the punch of the iPod in the overall (Mac and PC) marketplace. If Apple wants to continue being the dominant music player maker, Apple has to (as they have) realize that USB 2.0 is much, much more ubiquitous than FireWire ever will be.

Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
practicle, but strange events for Mac faithful
I'd rather get a bigger price cut on the iPod and use the USB cable. If I could only use firewire because I had an older Mac, than I'd still rather get the bigger price cut on the iPod and buy a $10 firewrie cable from Fry's or Radio Shack. (Not to mention that if I only had an older Mac, I would already have the firewire cable anyway).

I think all the fuss about the absence of the firewire cable is more a case of the Mac faithful feeling betrayed by Apple, and probably rightly so. Apple has definitely been party to the whole 'us versus them' phenomenon (as in Mac vs Windows). But now they seem to be leaning more and more to whatever makes sense on the bottom line, as well as having to look at the overall computing community (not just Mac users as in past years). I'm not a Mac faithful, but I could only imagine what all this must be like for them. Very different to say the least, and quite disturbing for many of them.
Posted by (61 comments )
Reply Link Flag
well, not all of us
I am Mac faithful, I celebrate 10 years on the platform next year.
I'm glad to see this. I scoffed at iPod when it came out, it was a
geek and priator's best friend. It found it's market, as the geeks
talked and talked about it, the rest of us caught on. I've had
three iPods -- a 3G 10GB, a 4GB mini and now a 512MB Shuffle.
Of the three, Shuffle is my favorite. I always get the most
affordable model, and I listen to one playlist. It's overkill to have
10 or 4GB when you listen to 200MB worth of music at any given
point in time. It's like sending a terminator to kill a smurf, when
a properly placed mousetrap would suffice.

The zealots are upset because this isn't "Apple." Well, it is.
Apple's philsophy was to make computing available to everyone.
They are doing this with iPod - holding true to their original
manafesto - and the faithful are upset. They are paying more
attention to the Windows kiddies. I have made my case clear in a
LiveJournal thread: USB has always been my favorite, and all my
(portable) disks are in Windows format. I only own Macs, tho. But
I want to be able to copy data or backup data from *any*
computer I come across, and FAT32 is simply more accepted in
the World that HFS+. I praise Shuffle being only FAT32. I believe
all iPods should be the same, and really market that "it doules as
a USB hard disk" like they have done with Shuffle.
Posted by durtydiesel (6 comments )
Link Flag
Wow, this is such a non-story. Or it would be if people were in any way reasonable.

It's like raising a stink because your favorite restaurant that used to give you free chips and salsa now only offers them on the appetizer page. They didn't do it to offend you, they did it because it made the most business sense... they were probably tired of dumping out baskets of partially eaten chips and salsa.

Why are Mac users now complaining? If you're a Mac user and you don't already own something that plugs in to Firewire, well, then you really ought to be using a PC. Or you're a Mac user who doesn't already own an iPod? If so, then you're really not a loyal Mac user.

I swear, you Mac users are way too paranoid.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
not so true
I have more USB than FireWire perpherials because I work with
both platforms. I'll only own a Mac at home, but that does not
mean that I'm completly blind and follow everything Apple gives
me. I do not encode my music into AAC, I still use MP3. I like the
compatability that USB brings. FireWire was and always has been
a VIDEO connection standard. Camcorders and TVs, DVD and
DVRs should be using this technology to change the
entertainment consumer electronics sector, NOT fueling more
roatating outdated hard disks. FireWire should be to the TV and
video industry what Bluetooth is to cell phones: a connection
method for devices that can work with a computer but are not
designed to only work with the computer.

I'm crazy, I know..
Posted by durtydiesel (6 comments )
Link Flag
They missed a major story
Per this logic, all printer manufacuters "gave up" on the parallel port when they stopped bundling printer cables back in the early 90's. Never mind that parallel ports were the only way to connect printers to computer back then, but heck it wasn't included so they must have given up on it.

Same with USB interfaces today - what company gives you the cable?? Yep they gave up on it, completely.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't get it...
I mean...don't all Mac Mini's have firewire? How does this fall in
line with the idea that the iPod brings PC users to the attractive
new Mac Mini? Why wouldn't it make more sense to either not
include ANY cable or to leave it a firewire world in the hopes of
making the argument for (and a good one it is) high speed
connections for iPods? That's a testimony to using an iPod on a
Mac, and I was told to believe, the centerpiece of the iPod halo-

I just don't get how this move could ever be seen as consistent
with a company trying to create switchers...it seems more like a
consumer electronics company trying to sell units.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You're right on!
The reason we Mac faithful feel betrayed is that WE have been
preaching the benefits of Apple and it's devices (including
Firewire) and now Apple, by their own admission, (by leaving out
the one thing that's almost a Mac exclusive), is virtually saying,
"Hey, keep your crappy old PC, we'll make it easier for you to
connect to US!" (and cheaper than our own users can do it!!)
If you want people to adopt YOUR platform, you don't do it by
reinforcing theirs! I personally won't buy a PC that doesn't have a
6 pin Firewire port built in and I have 3 PC's (and 5 Mac's) Heck
they may as well have stuck a PS2 connection on the back of the
Mac mini for that matter!
Posted by rhett121 (73 comments )
Link Flag
Cost saving measure
Think about this:

Some printer makers had stopped providing USB cables to save money. And to allow retailers to make money by selling cables (see 300% markup on USB cables).

Well, since I find firewire faster on my older macs than USB1.1, I have the cable that came with my iPod 4G. But I also have a USB cable (that I can use on another machine at work). This must add cost to the iPod and I've friends that have the cables lying around (eBay I say) unused.

Since Apple wants to get more market share, and PC converts are the ideal, Apple and just-USB makes financial sense.

As for the zealots, sigh, and I quote, "The most perfidious (treacherous) way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.---Friedrich Nietzsche".

All the insider gossip prior to this news was that a rumor'd bluetooth iPod was to be released. Well? I thought so.
Posted by Below Meigh (249 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple NOT moving away from FW, just this cord.
This is a cost cutting move only, for peripherals. The headline is
designed to be controversial, despite it's damaging implication
for this company's innovation and investment.
FireWire has made huge inroads in professional DV video and
audio environments. Panasonic is a major adopter on high-end
Pro video equipment. Digital audio vendors also like FireWire as
an extremely fast, reliable and intelligent interface.
FireWire also has a following in Home Theater interfaces, a
burgeoning market.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Right on the point!
Besides all the discussion going around on USB vs FW, what does this journalistic approach mean!

"FireWire is still Apple Computer's baby, but the proud parent is cutting the cord."

to me the impression is definitely different than saying, "Apple has just made the package more efficient!", and the cord has not been cut!, it's right there, 19 bucks for those who still don't have one around! though they have been dying without it!
Posted by Shauheen (23 comments )
Link Flag
Let me get this straight.....
Apple just lowered their prices on iPods significantly and increased battery life making them one of the best deals out there for a state of the art personal music player....

And people are freaking out over a $19.00 cable?

Gimme a break.

This seems like a smart move on Apples part to me, in fact, I just ordered my first iPod today. And with Mac prices reaching a more reasonable level, especially the Powerbook, I can see one of those in my future as well.
Posted by (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Firewire as screwed before this
This subtle change Apple is making away from the FireWire (FW)
standard is unmistakeable, no matter what the company says
now that publicity is turning against it. Yet Apple argues the
point as if it were also something beyond their control ("USB is
what most of the world uses, so what can we do?"). The truth is,
when Apple decided to design FW800 around a completely
different connection than FW400, they put the first shovel in the
ground for the entire FW standard's grave.

The main reason, I believe, that USB has been such a success is
that every time the standard was upgraded, the physical
connection - the plug - was kept the same. Never underestimate
the power of backward compatability in the mind of the average
consumer (or the business plans of the average company). The
fact that old USB devices weren't totally DOA when the new USB
standard was instituted was a major selling point in its favor.

Apple had a chance to give FW the same advantage when it went
from the 400 to 800 spec. However, by changing the plug - thus
requiring new FW devices to be re-engineered, and old FW
customers to upgrade their systems - Apple put everyone
(consumers and businesses) in the position of choosing what
was easier to live with vs. what was the better technology. More
often than not, "easy" wins that battle. It's ultimately cheaper for
producers, and less of a hassle for the consumer in terms of
learning curves (i.e. 'I don't have to worry about knowing
anything new or doing anything expensive in order to keep up
with advancements in the technology').

It's a shame. FW400 was already acknowleged as superior to USB
1.1 AND 2.0. FW800 should have been able to rock the industry.
It lost out because Apple neglected an area that the company
has already made it's mark in - the area of 'seamless use for the
customer'. When it comes to software, Apple has no problem
living by this mantra (evidenced by Classic support for
applications in the great OSX). Now if it could only - FINALLY -
learn that same lesson in hardware (NuBus or ADC anyone?).

For the love of Pete, Apple; get your heads out of your
collective butts and change the FW800 plug back to the FW400
design! Yeah, it will cost you - most mistakes do - and be a
hassle for the miniscule number of people who are actually
using a FW800 device these days, but if you move fast enough
the vast majority of us might not have to lose a great technology
... again.
Posted by bcsaxman (69 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Absolute RUBBISH!
Apple is NOT 'distancing itself' from FireWire; this is REQUIRED
by EVERY DV Camcorder on the market today, and is used where

By using the USB interface, Apple is providing it's customers with
a lower-cost solution, and recognizing that Windows users are
not as fortunate as Mac users because most of their machines
don't even have a FireWire port!

Nothing more. The author of this article provides NOTHING of
value to CNet's readership by writing such nonsense!

Look for some real news to inform us about.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
USB 2.0 vs FireWire (The Facts)
Well start with the basics of the 2 standards.

USB was created by Intel. At it's 1.5 & 12 Mbps peak speeds, it
was originally designed to replace PS/2, serial, and parallel
connections. It was designed to intelligently handle multiple
device IDs (128 including the host per controller) carry power,
and be hot-swappable. Apple was the first computer
manufacturer to adopt it, although some part makers made USB
cards at that time. USB 2.0, which was created to compete with
Firewire, has peak speeds of 480, 12, & 1.5 Mbps depending on
the devices hooked to it.

FireWire was developed, in part by Apple, to complement USB by
replacing SCSI connections. It was initially released with peak
sustained transfer speeds of 400 Mbps but upgradability to
3200 Mbps was designed into it from the beginning. (Current
speeds are at 800 Mbps.) It was designed to intelligently handle
multiple device IDs (64) carry power, be hot-swappable, and
allow for a computer to boot over the connection. Rather than
license the technology from Apple, Sony introduced an
unpowered version on the standard (iLink) which was widely
adopted amongst the PC manufacturers.

Apple has a better understanding of market conditions than a lot
of people give them credit for. In fact, Apple has a better
understanding of market conditions than a lot of people. They
know that they have to improve their products and/or lower
their prices to maintain their sales and lower their costs to
maintain their profits. One way to reduce costs is to make the
components as standard for as many platforms as possible. As
more people have PCs rather than Macs. Many of those PCs have
some form USB particularly USB 2.0, which can now be used to
provide power to the iPod, but lack powered FireWire ports. USB
2.0 has also been on the Macintosh for a while. Not including a
FireWire cable with the iPod but offering it as a separate item
maximizes profits.

Does this mean Apple is going to abandon FireWire? Not anytime
soon. After all, one cannot boot off a USB drive. USB will never
have the speeds FireWire is capable of. USB transfers protocols
are also not ideal for video work (a staple of Macintosh usage).
Indeed due to those same protocols USB CD burners could be a
bit flakey until USB 2.0 speeds were achieved.

Due in part to its price and the fact it's been established longer
USB has an advantage when it comes to devices and purposes
that could use either standard.
Posted by ScifiterX (69 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You can boot from USB
just maybe not a Mac. PC's have been doing this for awhile now. Google 'boot from usb device'.
Posted by (26 comments )
Link Flag
USB1 can charge just like USB2
There's actually no difference in the power supply capabilities of USB1 and USB2 - both are specced, from a powered hub or host, to give you a maximum of 500mA at 5v.

Both also suffer from unpowered hubs in the same way - these can give as little as 100mA to each port - fine for a keyboard or mouse, but not much good for a fast charge of your device. Things like, for example, a keyboard with USB ports on it, fall into this category.

Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The problem with charging iPods lay not in the fact that the
standard was not capable but it the fact Apple had not and quite
possibly could not license that aspect of the technology until
recently. I distinctly remember for a little while iPods were able
to charge off of USB on PCs, yet no such option existed at the
time for Macintoshes using USB 1.1 or 2.0.
Posted by ScifiterX (69 comments )
Link Flag
Not really backing off
The headline of your article makes it sound like Apple is backing
out of FireWire completely, when in reality it is only doing so for
the iPod line, and only for cost reasons.

As you undoubtedly know, many people just read headlines, and
don't bother with the whole article, so headlines such as this one
may give readers the wrong impression.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
HEADLINES are NOT written by article authors. FYI
The authors of articles take a lot of heat for the headlines, but I
found out some time ago that the headlines are written by
others with a marketing purpose - to get reader numbers up,
"hits", or in print, sell papers.

Complain to the editors, not the authors, for the headlines. The
content of articles is another story;-)
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Link Flag
Mac vs. PC / Firewire vs. USBx
First, I am pro Mac/Apple. So I should be biased to wanting the firewire cable, with my iPod. But lets face the economics here. Apple with approx 5% pc market, they are making a wise choice, because their market for the iPod is likely larger than that.

What I do think though, is that any iPods being sent to and sold through an Apple retail outlet, or an Apple Authorized reseller, should include a Firewire cable instead of USBx. At very least have the option to choose.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Idle chatter
Interesting article.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why USB will never succeed as a transfer protocal
Personally I find the USB protocol absolutely horrendous for uses
beyond basic input devices (mice, keyboards, etc). The protocol
was never designed to power Hard-drives, external CD/DVD
writers, video, tape backups or any of these other uses where
large amounts of data are being transfered over the bus.
Another reason for this is USB relies almost solely on the
processor to complete transfers, making it harder on the
processor whereas firewire actually is able to do some of the
processing when transferring data and the such.

This is why USB in its current state will NEVER fly as a usable
connector for video editors, external hard drives, CD/DVD
writers or network applications.
Posted by TheIguana (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I can't agree with one sentiment
FireWire blows USB 2.0 out of the water in my experience for
actual throughput and quality of service issues. They are like
chalk and cheese in these respects. I prefer FW over USB at
Posted by Jill_Gates (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
USB 1 and FireWire 800
Two things.

First, I plugged my 30GB iPod into my PowerBook (FireWire) aka
Pismo laptop's USB 1.1 port just to see if it would work. While
transferring files to the iPod hard drive was pretty slow,
everything worked. The pod mounted in both the Finder and
iTunes. I was able to play pod music from iTunes with no
problem. I am running Mac OS X 10.3.8 on the Pismo. People
who complain ought to try it, if they haven't. It works, so far as I
can tell.

I also wonder why Apple hasn't even made FireWire 800 (aka
1394b) an option on the iPod. I would love to have an even
faster connection for it. Could it be that the iPod wouldn't
benefit from the faster speed? I wonder.
Posted by (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why no FW800 on iPod ...
I think the reason is twofold: One is that, so far, the amounts of
music (primarily) and pictures (compressed) haven't absolutely
required a higher transfer rate. It would be nice to have it, but
its not crucial yet, and any company is going to factor in
'inevitability before losing sales' prior to spending money on a
new feature.

Second is related to the problem I mentioned above - that is
FW800 works off an entirely different plug/connection than
FW400. Basically Apple would have to engineer a third protocol
for their dock connector - the current USB and FW400, plus
FW800 - and this would, again, incur costs. Probably
prohibitively so (at least in the eyes of an accountant).

Frankly, I agree that it would be prohibitively expensive. It's also
completely needless, if you consider the reasonable question of
why Apple made FW800 with a different plug than FW400 in the
first place. Whatever the reason - and it almost certainly isn't
technical, given that both USB versions (fast and slow) use the
same plug design - Apple has hamstrung the FW standard so
badly by doing this, that even they can no longer build a sales
model that justifies using it, their own invention, in one of their
'bread and butter' products.

My suggestion is that Apple standardize the plugs for both FW
400 and 800 back to the original FW400 version (since there's
vastly more computers floating around with FW400 plugs than
FW800). It's a simple solution, although it would certainly cost
them some money in the short term. However, probably no more
than incorporating FW800 - or some brand new standard - into
iPods at a later date (which is probably going to be necessary,
assuming they continue to increase in capacity, and develop into
fully fledged multimedia devices).

Its also clear that changing would be an inconvenience for those
relatively few that are using FW800 as it's currently designed
(now THEY'd be the ones buying adaptors). On the other hand,
the overall benefits to be had from a superior technology,
backward compatability of the same, eventual lower costs of
implementation of the technology, etc... would be greater, and
be available to a greater number of people, in the long run.

Short term pain vs long term gain - for consumers and
technology designers/developers I think the choice is clear. I
wonder, will Apple?
Posted by bcsaxman (69 comments )
Link Flag
I have an old iPod with a firewire cable but it cannot be used with my new MacBook Pro because Apple have changed the firewire socket, so the cable does not fit. This means I will have to buy another firewire cable or make do with USB2.

This is another example of Apple ignoring their customers' needs and concentrating on profit instead..
Posted by bsbeckett (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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