|Tuesday, April 15, 2003|
From the article on cnet:
The new version of the PlayStation 2 will also use a new cooling system that produces 75 percent less fan noise, according to Sony. The new design will also eliminate the console's IEEE 1394 "FireWire" port, which has seen limited use, mainly for high-speed networking of two or more consoles.
Wow. Talk about backpedaling. Sony had long talked about how 1394/FireWire-- sorry, i.Link-- would be the "ubiquitous port" across all of their home entertainment and computing devices. In effect, FireWire would be the multimedia networking backbone for the next generation home entertainment center.
Until this announcement, the PlayStation 2 had all the capabilities necessary to act as the central controller in such a context. It has plenty of bandwidth and CPU power to handle all the digital to analog and analog to digital conversion one might need in such a set up. With the addition of the broadband adaptor (which includes a hard drive), the PS2 even has backing store and the ability to directly integrate with one's home LAN.
Sony had talked about how they were going to add 1394 ports to many other Sony branded devices. Some of this already happened across the DV camera line and across their computers. However, Sony was to also add 1394 ports to some of their televisions.
That would have been very cool. It would have meant that a bunch of the relatively complex cable mess at the back of your stereo would be reduced to a handful of 1394 cables. Gone would be the analog, right/left, ground loop inducing mess between the various peripherals. You would still need analog lines from the amplifier to the speakers or from the preamp to the amp, but the gradual elimination of the analog lines between the rest of the components would still be quite welcome. As well, signal switching would have been reduced to selecting the appropriate digital stream and it would have been possible-- depending on bandwidth requirements-- to have multiple simultaneous streams going between digital devices.
While the elimination of the FireWire port from the PS2 does not necessarily mean the end of such a vision, it is certainly likely.
In other contexts, it looks like TCP/IP based networking is filling the promised role of 1394. TiVo's Home Media Option is a good example in that it allows sharing of content across a LAN. Going this route solves the distance and wiring issue in that ethernet quite comfortably traverses hundreds of feet of wire or one can go wireless easily. However, FireWire/1394/i.Link was designed as a multimedia transport layer and has a number of features that are critical to the conveyance of content where timing and latency must be managed carefully.
Seems like a step backwards.