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USB adds support for streaming devices

An industry group that develops and promotes the Universal Serial Bus interface announces the availability of a new USB specification that supports streaming-media devices.

An industry group that develops and promotes the Universal Serial Bus interface announced Friday the availability of a new USB specification that supports streaming media devices.

The USB Implementers Forum released on its Web site the USB Video Device Class Specification Revision 1.0, which is designed to make it easier for hardware makers, specifically streaming-media makers, to have their devices plug into and be recognized by personal computers.

USB is a hardware interface primarily for low-speed peripherals such as mice, keyboards, printers and scanners. It has a maximum bandwidth of 480 megabits per second. USB software allows computers to recognize a large range of devices by categorizing them into classes. A mouse or keyboard, for instance, would be recognized as a generic input device.

"This specification creates a generic definition for what a streaming device is," said Peter Glaskowsky, an analyst with MicroDesign Resources and editor in chief of Microprocessor Report.

The forum expects manufacturers to create both low-complexity devices, such as Webcams, and high-complexity devices, such as digital video cameras. The first devices expected to be released will include digital camcorders, digital cameras and PC cameras.

Prototypes of devices using the specification will be demonstrated next week at Intel's Developer Forum.

The forum has also been addressing some of the shortcomings of the USB interface. USB is a less-capable protocol than FireWire, according to Glaskowsky, because it doesn't enable peer-to-peer connections.

"USB still needs a (personal computer) somewhere" to share data between devices, Glaskowsky said.

Members of the forum have been working to enable peer-to-peer connections using the USB On-the-Go specification. On-the-Go is meant to allow portable devices, such as cell phones, handhelds and digital cameras, to share information over a wired connection.

The forum has completed the compliance program for the USB On-the-Go specification and manufacturers are working to have devices that use the specification certified for interoperability, according to Terry Remple, USB program manager for Qualcomm and co-chairman of the On-the-Go working group. Devices that are certified for interoperability by the forum will have a logo indicating they have passed muster.

Chips with On-the-Go will be available this quarter and hardware that uses the specification will be available in the next quarter.