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Jobs responds to no FireWire on MacBooks

updated 02:35 pm EDT, Fri October 17, 2008

New MacBooks lack FireWire

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has purportedly responded in a typically brief way to a customer complaint about Apple abandoning FireWire on its new MacBook line. The email communications between Jobs and a customer who wrote to complain, reported by AppleInsider, show Jobs' thought process, looking forward with few FireWire ported High-Definition camcorders coming to market. The approach ignores a heavily established base of FireWire-based camcorders and other devices that depend on the high-speed, low latency aspects of the connector.

The original email, from a customer identified by AppleInsider as "David," complains that he cannot recommend the new MacBooks to friends due to the lack of a FireWire port, because he can no longer "easily connect your digital camcorder and edit [his] own movies." Jobs response appears to have been "Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2."

FireWire was originally positioned as a high-speed port, with USB 1.1 positioned as a low-speed port for items like keyboards and mice. USB 2.0, with its faster speeds, has pushed FireWire out of the picture for the most part in the Windows PC sector. USB 2.0's theoretical speed of 480Mb/ses gave the appearance of higher speeds than FireWire's 400Mb/sec, despite FireWire's real-world higher speeds due to its serial-based connection standard. FireWire gives consistent speeds, unaffected by processor performance, where USB 2.0 can put a tax on the processor and be limited by it at the same time.

The ubiquitous nature of USB 2.0 has pushed FireWire into a niche market, and the emerging e-SATA connection protocol is pushing FireWire further from the limelight. The connection is still viable, if not required, for a large portion of the installed camcorder-based market, as well as in the music industry and professional photography markets.

Customers who want the newly-announced MacBook to edit home movies, the average customer that Apple gears iLife toward, are left to consider a new camcorder as part of the expense, or worse for Apple, to consider a PC alternative, as Sony and Dell offer FireWire ports on their lower-priced notebooks as options. And the MacBooks lack an ExpressCard adapter that would be the primary viable means of adding FireWire to the new notebooks.

Many professional media creators, videographers, photographers, musicians and others were hoping the MacBook would be positioned to replace the PowerBook G4 12-inch models they coveted for extreme portability. The lack of a FireWire port has diminished their enthusiasm for the new MacBooks, just when the processor, video card and rugged design made a MacBook a small-sized, portable alternative to carrying a larger MacBook Pro.

Jobs ability to predict the future has been more successful than not, but he may have jumped to soon this time. Removing FireWire from a laptop that holds such appeal to a large base of home video enthusiasts and professionals looking for a workhorse, highly portable Mac laptop could limit its success, despite early strong sales.

by MacNN Staff



  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969


    USB/ESATA are problematic

    ....for portables due to power issues & USB is so slow I simply don't get why for the additional $20 or so people don't prefer FW universally...

    In the least a combined USB/ESATA port is available which would at least allow high speed connectivity - perhaps this encourages time capsule sales being limited to gigabit ethernet & usb - hopefully Apple (or someone clever) may offer something SOON such as an G enet/fw adapter although again power may be an issue...?

    Comment buried. Show
  1. njfuzzy

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Or you can buy a MacBook Pro.

  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969


    should have...

    If anything what they should have done is stick one Firewire 400 Port, one USB 2 Port and one eSATA port on it.

  1. jeph4e

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Stupid. After pushing firewire then abandoning it.

    Ah well. Apple's loss of revenue. We have 3 Macbooks that are in need of upgrade but won't do it now as we have firewire drives and camcorders.

    We'll wait until the camcorders and drives reach EOL in a couple years.

    MBP's are too large for the road warriors

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    should read "too"

    please correct your grammar. it should read "jumped too soon" not "jumped to soon".

  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Bobolicious makes a good point! Given Apple's fondness for adapters at an additional cost anyway (dvi-vga etc.) why not create a custom multi-pin port (which apple also loves) that with the appropriate adapter can be firewire usb or eSata? It's only a connector after all, just plastic and gold plated metal in a certain shape. (And in case you don't get what I'm saying: A twelve pin custom port that includes all the contacts necessary for both FW and USB and common connections such as ground, with an adapter that breaks out to normal FW, USB or whatever). This is of course assuming that the socket was dropped purely over concerns about space.

  1. chotty

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Let me respond

    in a typically brief way. Steve, you lost a sale here. Just bought a Presonus FirePod FP-10 audio interface.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    stop whining

    If you really need FW 400 go out and buy a FW 800 to 400 adapter, $12 on amazon.

  1. alansilv

    Joined: Dec 1969


    target mode?

    And what about "target mode?" Has Apple come up with a way of enabling that via USB2? Or is migration from a previous Mac no longer going to be an option?

  1. resuna

    Joined: Dec 1969


    They want to save space?

    They could put two mini audio jacks in the same space as the one full-sized audio jack, or go with a four-contact headset-style jack.

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