Jobs responds to outrage over MacBook's missing FireWire

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014

In one of his characteristically terse email replies, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs has reportedly told one Mac user that changes in video camera technology have reduced the need for FireWire on his company's 13-inch MacBooks.


 


The one-line response to a fan complaining over the lack of FireWire on the new entry level aluminum MacBooks is blunt but also points out that technology has changed since the company began including FireWire with Macs in 1999.


 


"Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2," Jobs supposedly wrote in an email, a copy of which was posted to the popular Flickr image sharing website.


 


Jobs is likely not pleased about the current state of FireWire himself. Apple invented the standard in the late 80s as a hot pluggable replacement for SCSI, with a special emphasis on supporting media streaming with isochronous, real-time data transfers. The company then released the specification through a standards body to become IEEE 1394, where others including DEC, Texas Instruments, and Sony contributed to its development as well. 


 


Upon returning to the beleaguered Apple in 1997, Jobs hoped to earn Apple some licensing royalties from the technology, which was quickly becoming an emerging standard not just to replace SCSI but also in video and music applications. Jobs' plan resulted in Intel offering to upgrade its USB standard to speeds approaching FireWire at a lower cost. The 'master to slave' USB 2.0 protocol was cheaper to implement than the 'smart peers' design of FireWire because USB required less intelligence in the controllers.


 


Somewhat ironically, Apple's 1998 iMac originated the push behind USB that allowed it to gain rapid adoption among consumers. USB 2.0 built upon that ubiquity to push into the peripheral territory that had been wholly owned by FireWire. In 2001, Apple's iPod began to popularize FireWire as an interface that was much faster for syncing the then relatively large MP3 files compared to existing players that used USB 1.0. However, by 2003, Apple started adding USB 2.0 support to target PC buyers, where FireWire ports were rare. By the end of 2005, Apple had removed FireWire sync from the iPod line as a cost savings measure.


 


While USB 2.0 ate into the casual peripheral market for consumer hard drives and web cams, FireWire retracted to support applications where USB 2.0 wasn't suitable. It retains clear advantages over USB 2.0 among higher performance hard drives, but in that market, FireWire is now competing against eSATA, which developed from ATA cabling. Historically, FireWire has been the way to import video from digital cameras, but as Jobs' purported email announced that is no longer always the case.


 


A glance at the product pages for Canon, Hitachi, JVC, Samsung and Sony as well as Amazon's top camcorder list indicates that virtually all new compact consumer HD cameras now use USB 2.0 to transferring footage directly to a computer instead of the FireWire. Some camcorders also offer the option of burning directly to DVD and a few can transfer video over a USB-to-FireWire bridge cable.


 


A purported email reply from Apple chief executive Steve Jobs.


 


That reality is little comfort to those who fall outside of Apple's market for the new entry-level portables, many of whom are vocal in their opinions in Apple's support discussions as well as AppleInsider's own forums.


 


Support for older cameras, many of which (particularly DV tape models) depend on FireWire, is ruled out by Apple's aluminum MacBook update; so too are prosumer cameras such as Sony's HDR-FX1000, which needs the faster throughput of FireWire (called i.LINK by Sony) to deliver raw content if a card reader isn't used. To serious amateurs or professionals who prefer a smaller system, the loss of FireWire on the new entry level MacBooks is a vexing problem. 


 


"I am a video producer and use my MacBook on site to ingest footage taken from FireWire cameras, even occasionally hooking the camera right up to the MacBook," says one Mac user with the previous generation system.  "Well, it looks like there isn't a FireWire port on it anymore... how the heck am I supposed to do that? I am sure I am not the only one with this concern."


 


Professional musicians also use FireWire in recording equipment. Others have noted that the lack of FireWire additionally rules out Target Disk Mode for managing files or cloning systems, as USB 2.0's architecture lacks the capacity to support that feature. Apple's Migration Assistant software now alternatively supports importing files from another machine over Ethernet, from USB drives, or Time Machine backups, however.


 


Even so, many argue that Apple's move appears built to upsell any serious user to the MacBook Pro, which starts at $800 more than the entry level new MacBook, despite the fact that Apple continues to sell the previous-generation white MacBook, with FireWire intact, for $300 less than the new aluminum MacBooks.


 


There's no doubt that the removal of FireWire from the MacBook was as difficult of a decision for Apple as it is a mourned loss for many Mac users. With FireWire increasingly receding into the professional space, Apple had to weigh several variables, including the cost of incorporating another port to its entry level laptop that many of its new users wouldn't even recognize. After all, half of the buyers Apple is selling to in its retail stores are new to the Mac. Being able to offer them a lower price will likely help more than trying to sell them on the concept of Target Disk mode, which is entirely foreign to PC users.


 


The future of FireWire is still up in the air. Apple retained the FW800 version (running at 800Mbps, twice the speed of the original specification) on the new MacBook Pro, providing substantially faster throughput than USB 2.0. On the MacBook, FW400 doesn't offer most users enough of an advantage over USB 2.0 to warrant taking up the limited space on the port panel and on the logic board.


 


"Many of us don't have great confidence that FireWire is here to stay on MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, or iMac, either," one forum user wrote.


 


With the advancement of USB 2.0 on the low end, erosion from eSATA among hard drives, and a migration away from FireWire even in its home field advantage among digital video users, Apple is probably wondering the same thing.


 


Update: Jobs continues serve at times as Apple's unofficial public relations department, and AppleInsider can now nod to the authenticity of the aforementioned email with a high degree of certainty. Since our publication of his original email Thursday, Jobs has since exchanged another pair of emails with David, both of which be seen here:


 


---------- Forwarded message ----------


From: Steve Jobs


Date: Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 4:04 PM


Subject: Re: Firewire RIP?


To: Xxxxx


 


The new HD camcorders start around $500. 


 


Sent from my iPhone


 


 


On Oct 16, 2008, at 12:41 PM, Xxxxx wrote:


 


Hi Steve,


 


Thanks for the fast response! In answer to your statement, though, I decided to look at the selection of camcorders on BestBuy.com since I believe they represent a pretty average staple of what consumer electronics people are buying. Although you are correct that (almost) all of the new HD camcorders use USB 2.0, there are still many, many standard definition camcorders (read: affordable for average Joes) that require firewire. Does this mean to say that Apple no longer supports average Joes from making home movies on their computers? In other words, if I have a $300 firewire camcorder and a new MacBook, shouldn't I be able to edit videos of my kid's birthday just as easily as someone who has a MacBook Pro and a $1200 HD camcorder?


 


Sincerely,


 


-David


 


[ View this article at AppleInsider.com ]

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 1665
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    "Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2," Jobs supposedly wrote in an email, a copy of which was posted to the popular Flickr image sharing website.



    I'm pretty sure that is "most", not "all". I don't think HDV can be captured over the USB port of an HDV camcorder, and it's still an active format, with models still available new in the consumer market from several brands.



    But the point remains, new consumer purchases should emphasize solid state storage & USB transfer.
  • Reply 2 of 1665
    So why not this .Firewire 800 devices use a nine-pin connector, and if you need the maximum throughput you have to connect a FW800 device via a nine-pin to nine-pin FW800 'Beta' cable to a FW800 port, and run them in 'Beta' mode. On the other hand, FW400 devices use six-pin (powered) or four-pin (unpowered) connectors, although it's easy enough to buy nine-pin to six-pin or nine-pin to four-pin 'bilingual' cables so you can plug a FW400 device into a FW800 port (or vice versa) and run it in backward-compatible legacy mode.
  • Reply 3 of 1665
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    My brand new Canon HV30 (a HD camcorder) doesn't support USB 2 for video transfer....
  • Reply 4 of 1665
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    Why not drop the Ethernet port and replace it with FireWire 400? Apple already sells a USB to Ethernet adapter for the MacBook Air's. This would have been the best solution for everyone...
  • Reply 5 of 1665
    All you need is a simple cable



    USB to Firewire



    It encapsulates DV in USB Video Class. Needs no drivers since 10.4.9.



    No recompression - it's the original DV stream!



    And this has been available for over four years.







    http://www.everythingusb.com/news/index/3889.htm
  • Reply 6 of 1665
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by retroneo View Post


    All you need is a simple cable



    USB to Firewire



    It encapsulates DV in USB Video Class. Needs no drivers.



    And this has been available for over four years.



    http://www.everythingusb.com/news/index/3889.htm



    Never mind...
  • Reply 7 of 1665
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,056member
    Well, a few things:



    - I think this answer (assuming it is legit) is rude

    - Jobs is, as usual in most current statements, plain wrong. Even HDV camcorders being as current and best-selling as the Canon HV20 do only use FW for transfer (the USB port is for stills only), who buys a 1k camcorder just for lousy stills?

    - A lot of more professional camcorders (well up into the 20k range) still depend on FW for capturing of SD material - with HD(V) capturing does not require realtime transfer, so USB can suffice (while still having a sustained throughput problem that can make the process more lengthy)

    - I do have a total of 23 external FW HDs (more than half of them not having USB in addition) and 2 external FW DVD burners (mainly because the "Superdrives" are abysmal and highly picky with media), am I expected to throw all this away?

    - I do have two FW audio interfaces (including the Apogee Ensemble, a 2k device being highly touted by Apple as the premier partner for Logic)? So I have to schlep a 15 or 17" monolith just to record some audio on the go? At least 17" if I want to be able to actually see the screen on stage vs. myself?



    People have invested in FW peripherals for many years as this was the standard promoted by Apple (for good reasons). If you remove it, at least give people an advanced warning. This is simply bad treatment of customers and downright shameful.



    PS: Even funnier is the laughable support for AVCHD, disk, SD and DVD based camcorders in OS X and iMovie. People really want to get their feet wet with converting all of their stuff using something as comfortable as ffmpegX to edit their home videos... it simply does not work is Apple's new slogan?
  • Reply 8 of 1665
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    I also lament the state of Firewire. Intels lack of support ultimately set its fate. Apple has more invested in Firewire than consumers. Just the way these things go.
  • Reply 9 of 1665
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,056member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by retroneo View Post


    All you need is a simple cable



    USB to Firewire



    It encapsulates DV in USB Video Class. Needs no drivers.





    1. Does not work under OS X, 2. Is too slow to capture MiniDV even under Windows (dropped frames will result in footage that cannot be edited later on, but it's a nice waste of time).
  • Reply 10 of 1665
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,247member
    Apple's thinking is and always will be slightly ahead of consumers' thinking. Sure, we hate to lose Firewire, a technology that has a cool name, great performance, and bragging rights, since Apple invented it. But if you stop and think about it... the MacBook (which no longer has Firewire) is targeted to a market that probably won't ever use Firewire. The vocal minority here are the ones that should be looking at a MacBook Pro anyway, which still has their beloved port.



    (Firewire has saved my butt many times over with Target Disk Mode, but I understand that the landscape changes, and so will our products. Just look at the myriad of display/video ports we've gone through in the past few years).
  • Reply 11 of 1665
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post


    1. Does not work under OS X, 2. Is too slow to capture MiniDV even under Windows (dropped frames will result in footage that cannot be edited later on, but it's a nice waste of time).



    Bandwidth shouldn't be a problem here. DV/ HDV maxes out at 25Mbps, USB can sustain 200Mbps or so.
  • Reply 12 of 1665
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dave K. View Post


    Why not drop the Ethernet port and replace it with FireWire 400? Apple already sells a USB to Ethernet adapter for the MacBook Air's. This would have been the best solution for everyone...



    No. Ethernet is necessary. I've been to several places in the past two years to know. My school did not allow wireless routers in dorms and the only way to access the internet was via ethernet, and now I work in an office where I plug my MacBook Pro into the company network (and to the internet) via ethernet. For networks and internet access, ethernet provides a faster connection (so I'm told). You will loose the speed when changing to USB, I think. Not to mention the fact you will loose a USB port doing so. My point is that Firewire should not replace ethernet...I do think that Apple was stupid in removing it, though!
  • Reply 13 of 1665
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post


    ... I think this answer (assuming it is legit) is rude

    - Jobs is, as usual in most current statements, plain wrong. Even HDV camcorders being as current and best-selling as the Canon HV20 do only use FW for transfer (the USB port is for stills only), who buys a 1k camcorder just for lousy stills?...



    Nah, you are the one that is "plain wrong."



    1) Apple has pushed FireWire constantly and persistently, and I don't think they can be blamed that no one else took it up.



    2) Apple still supports FireWire on every single product it makes *except* the entry-level "cheap" (for Apple) MacBook.



    3) You are not differentiating between consumer level cameras and Pro gear.



    Bottom line is if you have a camera that only does FireWire, it's either old or "pro enough" that you should be comfortable affording the extra $700 bucks for the MacBook Pro.



    The guy above that says he's a "video producer" but can only afford a MacBook and not a Pro? Give me a break. What a bunch of whiners.
  • Reply 14 of 1665
    Steve Jobs has finally lost it. (Well, actually he's been a bit loopy for the past year.)



    Time for him to go.
  • Reply 15 of 1665
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,056member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    Bandwidth shouldn't be a problem here. DV/ HDV maxes out at 25Mbps, USB can sustain 200Mbps or so.



    I am doing videos for a living. You cannot capture DV via USB and the FW-to-USB adapter mentioned does not even provide the full USB 2.0 bandwidth (it may be able to sustain 80-100 Mbps, assuming the CPU is not stalling, which in reality does happen).
  • Reply 16 of 1665
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    2) Apple still supports FireWire on every single product it makes *except* the entry-level "cheap" (for Apple) MacBook.



    $1300 for a cheap notebook. Yeah right!
  • Reply 17 of 1665
    All that I know for sure is I will not spend one bloody dime on an Apple notebook until FireWire is back on the MacBook. I'm not going to spend an extra $500 to get the MacBook Pro.



    I've been a Mac user for 10 years, and for the first time ever I am considering buying a Dell.
  • Reply 18 of 1665
    zandroszandros Posts: 537member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dave K. View Post


    Why not drop the Ethernet port and replace it with FireWire 400? Apple already sells a USB to Ethernet adapter for the MacBook Air's. This would have been the best solution for everyone...



    We have IP over Firewire, and there's a spec for Firewire over standard ethernet cable. It's very doable to have both in one port.



    /Adrian
  • Reply 19 of 1665
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,122member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dave K. View Post


    My brand new Canon HV30 (a HD camcorder) doesn't support USB 2 for video transfer....



    Nice camera. There are plenty of cameras that don't support video over USB yet the real question should be "out of the millions of DV cameras sold over the last few years ..most require firewire for video download and you've just obsoleted them if they don't purchase a $2000 laptop"





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post


    I also lament the state of Firewire. Intels lack of support ultimately set its fate. Apple has more invested in Firewire than consumers. Just the way these things go.



    Apple cannot blame Intel here. They use the same chipset in the Macbook Pro and it has FW. This is a needless distinction between the two.



    Quote:

    There's no doubt that the removal of FireWire from the MacBook was as difficult a decision for Apple as it is a mourned loss for Mac users. With FireWire increasingly receding into the professional space, Apple had to weigh several variables, including the cost of adding a port to its entry level laptop that many of its new users wouldn't even recognize. After all, half of the buyers Apple is selling to in its retail stores are new to the Mac. Being able to offer them a lower price will likely help more than trying to sell them on the concept of Target Disk mode, which is entirely foreign to PC users. *



    I'm sure the cost of adding the port was much lower than the overengineering of the aluminum case. PC users aren't morons..they have Firewire too and they capture video with their computers. Where is this smarmy "PC users are dolts and have sought refuge within the Mac domain to ease their burden" coming from? If a PC user spends $1299 on a laptop it has a hell of a lot more features than a $1299 Macintosh does.





    Jobs is such a liar and a charlatan. Yeah he's rich but he's the same egotistical "form over function" dictator he was before.



    The alu Macbook is a closed device that offers less functionality than its predecessor. That's not progress.
  • Reply 20 of 1665
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Zandros View Post


    We have IP over Firewire, and there's a spec for Firewire over standard ethernet cable. It's very doable to have both in one port.



    /Adrian



    Why didn't Apple do this for the MacBook
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