Universal Serial Bus technology will experience a major breakthrough in data-transfer speeds by the end of 2000, and the USB Implementers Forum is gearing up to pave the way.
Jason Ziller, Intel's technology initiatives manager, said the new specification, tentatively dubbed USB 2.0, will have data-transfer speeds 40 to 50 times that of the 12MB per second offered by the current model.
This breakthrough was accomplished by refining the interface between the PC and the peripheral, he said, and almost matches the performance provided by IEEE1394 Firewire.
One drawback with the new specification is that peripherals designed under the old spec will not operate any faster when attached to a USB 2.0-equipped PC. While USB 2.0 is fully backward compatible, the data-transfer rate will remain at 12MB per second, Ziller said.
To obtain the faster speed, the PC and the peripheral will have to be USB 2.0-ready. This will be done through the purchase of new equipment, but Ziller said an add-in card may be developed that will allow older PCs to be upgraded.
As far as data-transfer speed is concerned, USB 2.0 pushes the technology just about to its limit, he said, which is why it will coexist, and not replace, IEEE 1394.
FireWire already works at about 400MB per second but has the potential to go at least to 800MB per second, according to Texas Instruments.
The new specification has breathed life into the USB Forum, said Ziller. With USB ports included in most new PCs and notebooks, the need for the association had diminished. But USB 2.0 will require a new campaign to bring retail buyers and sales associates up to speed, he said.
The USB Forum has 500 members and is charged with developing USB specifications and educating the market on the technology.