FireWire: It’s Baaaaaaaaaaaack!

By  |  Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 2:03 am

FireWire HaloOf all the news that came out of Monday’s Apple WWDC keynote, one tidbit that didn’t get much attention is worthy of note: Apple’s refresh of its 13-inch laptop brought back the FireWire port that had been removed when the first 13-inch unibody MacBook shipped last October. In fact, Apple upgraded the connection, giving the new laptop a FireWire-800 port rather than the FireWire-400 one it had done away with last year. The return of FireWire in even beefier form is presumably a big part of why Apple was comfortable in redubbing the laptop that had been known as a mere MacBook as a MacBook Pro. Among Macs, only the MacBook Air, a computer so thin it barely has room for ports at all, lacks FireWire.

It’s a truly surprising development. Apple has historically been aggressive about erring on the side of removing technologies from its computers early, and while it often catches flack at the time, other PC manufacturers tend to fall into line eventually. When it killed FireWire on the 13-inch MacBook last year it made lots of folks very angry, but Steve Jobs himself apparently thought it was not a big deal. And so did I. In fact, I thought that other Macs would begin to lose their FireWire. I was wrong.

I can’t think of another instance in which Apple has moved to retire a technology and then changed its mind. (If there have been any, I know you’ll tell me.) It’s a little as if the second-generation iMac had brought back the floppy drive.

I’m still guessing that the company’s instinct is that FireWire is at the beginning of the end of its useful life, and that we’ll see lower-end Macs without it in the not-too-distant future. But for now, score one for FireWire fans–and for Apple, too, since it showed it was listening.

Me, I’m more excited about the fact that the company is finally shipping laptops with built-in slots for SD cards…

 
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21 Comments For This Post

  1. Kontra Says:

    USB 3.0 is coming up, but not just ready yet, hence FW back temporarily.

  2. jc Says:

    I dunno. I really like having firewire. Take any 2 macs with a firewire port, hook them together, and you get an instant local network with ridiculously fast transfer speeds. Even works with XP boxes (Vista & Windows 7 decided to remove firewire networking support).

  3. Tom B Says:

    You really need it for video; USB is a poor substitute. Glad they apparently got the message–though it might just be Tim Cook’s influence– a slightly different style than Jobs.

  4. John Baxter Says:

    It’s not at all surprising, given that Fireware was to be brought back,* that it is Firewire 800 rather than 400.

    The only Firewire 400 remaining in the product line is in the Macbook (Spring 2009 with no name modifier).**

    *That it came back at all is the surprising part.

    **Dear Apple: what’s wrong with model numbers?

  5. Jim H. Says:

    I have to say I was very surprised but very pleased. I was all set to get the 13″ aluminum unibody MacBook when I first heard they were coming out. When I saw that it lacked Firewire I decided to soldier on with my little 12″ PowerBook G4. I work in a school and do a fair amount of video. The lack of FW was a deal breaker for me. I like a small format computer for portability and convenience. I think I am not alone in this regard considering the past popularity of the 12″ PowerBook. I have an iMac at home so I have the large screen if I need it. Normally in the computer world it doesn’t pay to wait but I’m so glad I did. Now I’ll spend the $, get a better deal and have Firewire 800 to boot! I’m a happy camper.

  6. Marc Says:

    heh I remember my first iPod, it was Firewire only!

  7. Neil Anderson Says:

    I really appreciated the first generation unibody MacBook’s design … but after I learned it had no FireWire I decided not to buy one.

  8. Tom B Says:

    “heh I remember my first iPod, it was Firewire only!”

    For a short time, the iPod was also Mac-only. The early iPods also preceded USB 2, and thus, Apple wisely chose to go for “fast”. USB 2 proved to be adequate for iPods, and more prevalent than Firewire, so I can live with either. For video and external HD’s, I want FW.

  9. Pecos Bill Says:

    FireWire is critical if you want to repair a hard drive inside a laptop. At least that’s true until something else replaces Target Disk Mode. USB 2 cannot support that and likely so cannot USB 3. (USB 2 at 480 is slower than FW400 due to overhead.)

    (Weird that you don’t have a trackback from MacSurfer)

  10. YYY Says:

    Leaving away Firewire was of course a DUMB mistake. A lot of digital video cam users out there who thought a Mac was good for media purposes were just cut off. I feel sorry for those who bought a FW-less Mac. Thanks Apple.

  11. Eric Says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Pro line never lost FireWire, did it? It appears to me that Apple added a 13 inch to its Pro line and therefore it has FireWire. It’s still discontinued on the Macbook line. It isn’t that they brought back FireWire to the 13 inch Macbook, but rather included a 13 inch laptop to the pro line, and therefore it has FireWire. Doesn’t seem like a contradiction or backpedaling at all to me…

  12. Tom B Says:

    Eric: correct. The Pro line never dropped FW.

  13. Gene Says:

    Ditto to what Jim H. and Neil said. The unibody 13.3 MacBook very very appealing with respect to size, performance & durability, but the lack of Firewire prevented me from parting with my 1st gen 15″ MacBookPro CoreDuo which was weak at the knees from all I would toss at it at one (VMWare Fusion, Photoshop, Aperture, Safari with 100 plus tabs open!) with its mere 2GB of dram (yes, its maxed out, Core2Duo is required to go beyond 2GB). Now I can sell my MBP and the HP MiniNote I purchased as a dedicated Windows machine for work and get the new 13″ MBP!

  14. James Grinter Says:

    Now, if only they’d bring back the option of non-glossy screens too!

  15. Dave Zatz Says:

    Wish I could trade in my 13″ unibody Macbook w/ Firewire, SD slot, and lit keyboard for the new (cheaper) model. Bah!

  16. Brian Ashe Says:

    Apple has gone back and forth before. The first PowerMac G4s had video cards with VGA and DVI connectors. Then they introduced ADC and cards had that and VGA–no DVI. Later G4s and G5s had ADC and DVI, then they dropped ADC and went DVI-only.

  17. Dan Tillmanns Says:

    Pecos Bill mentioned Target Disc Mode. Very useful and fun to use with its symbol bouncing around the screen.
    When I got my Mac Pro, I loaded it from my 15 inch laptop. That replaced the OS but Software Update got the right one.
    As a by product, I now have Graphic Converter on my main desktop. Apple had bundled it on the laptop.

  18. Adam Says:

    Apple removed the microphone jacks from several of their computers (spurring the invention of devices such as Griffin’s iMic) and a couple years later they put the mic jacks back on all of their computers.

    It’s kind of funny that they have given back FireWire on the 13″, but at the same time went for a combined in/out audio jack…

  19. Hovo Says:

    Is it me or is that a 15″ macbook in the picture.. If you are talking about a 13″ mac book why present the viewers with a pic from the 15″ mac book?

  20. Art Vandelay Says:

    Aside from the Air, there now isn’t a current MacBook (Pro or not) without Firewire. Awesome development.

  21. Bill Says:

    I’m thankful it’s back. Firewire makes it so much easier to repair a broken Mac, especially with the magic of Target Disk Mode (which I personally think is the best thing when you own both a Mac desktop and a Mac laptop; you can use your Mac laptop as a boot drive for the Mac desktop so you don’t lose anything).

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