Don’t count FireWire out just yet. The 1394 Trade Association ( — of which Apple is a member — is predicting a strong year of expansion for FireWire across a wide range of markets in 2010, as the electronics industry returns to growth and designers adopt faster FireWire speeds.

The trade association foresees continued expansion into higher speed computing, storage and consumer electronics products, with steady growth of 1394-enabled products in the industrial cameras and instrumentation segments, where FireWire is established as the interface of choice. The 1394 standard (FireWire to we Mac users) also is becoming the preferred interface for automotive networking applications.

Texas Instruments issued the following statement about 1394 prospects: “Texas Instruments continues to see strong demand for its 1394 products across multiple end equipments. The consumer video market continues to drive demand for content protection-enabled 1394a devices in the high-definition set-top box (STB) and digital TV segments, while the PC and external storage market continue the transition from 1394a to 1394b. With the release to market of low-cost equalizers that can drive 1394b signals up to 100 meters on CAT5, coaxial and plastic optical fiber (POF) cables, Texas Instruments also sees an increased interest in applications like surveillance, machine vision, industrial and medical.”

PLX Technology, which deals in 1394-based storage technology, concurred. “PLX continues to see strong demand for its 1394b line of storage controllers through 2010 and beyond, even with the rollout of the new USB SuperSpeed standard, because consumers demand peripherals that are supported freely in the current installed base,” says James Tout, vice president of Storage Engineering, PLX Technology. “The FireWire storage market continues to transition toward 1394b, a trend that began in 2008 due to the superior throughput compared to 1394a, the increased proliferation of 1394b ports and the widely improved OS support.”

LSI, another 1394 IC supplier, indicated the year looks strong. “LSI expects the transition from 1394a to 1394b to continue in 2010,” says Kevin Cone, 1394 product line manager, LSI Corp. “With more than 14 million units of LSI™ 1394b installed in end user systems, there is a large installed base driving the market for external HDDs with 1394b. 1394b is well positioned to meet the needs of users for fast backup and external storage applications without impacting system performance.”

“We believe that 1394 has a bright year ahead, as computer growth expands again, automotive applications emerge and storage products continue their advance to higher speeds and capacities,” says Max Bassler, 1394 Trade Association chairman. “Already in 2010, computer technology leaders like Hewlett Packard, Dell and Acer have introduced an impressive set of new products with FireWire, and the trend continues. So do our efforts to make 1394 the interface of choice in the industrial camera, instrumentation, and automotive networking sectors. All are adopting and deploying 1394 now. We are committed to continued development of standards, programs, and policies that enable the maximum use of FireWire across these markets and industry sectors.”

By the end of this year, there will be more than two billion 1394 ports in use across the computer, consumer electronics, industrial, military and other markets, he adds.