Microsoft is moving to use FireWire as a universal interface for peripherals such as storage drives, CD-ROM drives, DVD drives, and consumer electronics products. The new spec is part of its view of what a next-generation consumer PC should look like.
The IEEE 1394 standard, or FireWire as it is called, is a technology originally developed by Apple to allow for high-speed transfers of large amounts of data from peripherals such as digital camcorders.
Today's announcement means that hardware manufacturers can design both Firewire-enabled devices as well as the software that is needed for the Windows operating system to control the devices. Features addressed in the specification include the ability for PC peripherals to operate in conjunction with other consumer electronics devices such as camcorders and audio components.
Microsoft also addressed issues regarding how 1394-FireWire would also be used as an interface for Device Bay, a technology that would allow users to plug into an external receptacle called a "bay," a variety of devices such as a DVD drive or TV tuner. The device would then automatically configure itself.
Companies announcing support for the spec included IBM, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Harman International (which makes the JBL and Harmon Kardon brand audio products), and Yamaha, which manufactures CD-ROM and CD-R (recordable CD) drives.
These engineering specifications are expected to appear as consumer products by the end of 1997. More widespread adoption of the FireWire technology is expected in 1998 with the anticipated release of the next version of the Windows 95 operating system, code-named Memphis.