The T-Poll: Is the Death of MacBook FireWire an Outrage?

By  |  Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 12:31 pm

A couple of days ago when I posted my initial thoughts on the new Apple MacBooks and MacBook Pros, I declared that the lack of FireWire on the new MacBook was no big deal. Several commenters begged to differ with me. And now Computerworld has a good story by Gregg Keizer reporting that hundreds of angry users are bemoaning the MacBook’s lack of FireWire in Apple’s own forums.

When I said that the death of MacBook FireWire was no biggie, I confessed that I was basing that mostly on my own experience. But it is true that it eliminates the ability to use OS X’s handy FireWire Target Disk mode, which lets you easily and quickly copy files between Macs by treating one of them as an external hard drive. I will miss Target Disk Mode, but I’m thinking that Apple will get around to making it work with USB, too. And Targus already sells a $50 cable that lets you do USB transfers between two Macs or a Windows PC and a Mac.

Apple has a history of eliminating features such as dial-up modems and floppy drives before the rest of the market, and catching some flak for doing so. I’m still thinking that it’s doing something that will eventually seem like a logical move–but doing it before everyone’s comfortable. One thing seems certain: FireWire ain’t coming back to MacBooks.

Anyhow, it’s clear that the people who love FireWire really love it–but I’m still not sure whether they’re a tiny-but-noisy minority or a sizable chunk of Mac users. Let’s take a poll of the Technologizer community, shall we?

(UPDATE: Our coverage of this story continues with “FireWire Isn’t Alone: A Brief History of Features Apple Has Killed.” I dunno whether a decade of other examples of Apple axing stuff will make FireWire fans feel better or worse…)


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33 Comments For This Post

  1. Will Says:

    I’m sticking with my (over-priced black) MacBook for now, since I can’t not have Firewire for video work and I don’t want a 15in screen. So yeah, for me it’s a pretty big issue.

  2. Rob Says:

    The Jobs giveth and the Jobs taketh away. He adds better graphical capabilities but throws away Firewire. Doesn’t make any sense.

  3. Dave101 Says:

    Unbelievably stupid move to take away FireWire from the MacBook!
    What on earth were they thinking?
    Not just for TDM but external HDs, digi camcorders, audio devices etc… now all dead in the water.
    Bring back FireWire!

  4. teela Says:

    Firewire is most definitely not dead. Or near obsolescence like the floppy disk. They may as well have removed iMovie for 70% of their users. A firewire 800 port would have been a nice replacement but only if it came with a 400-800 converter. The investment in FW 400 devices is still quite high at the moment. Perhaps they should consider putting in a cardslot in macbooks as well to help in the transition away from firewire if that is what they intend to do.

    USB target disk mode should have been introduced first and been shown to work on all macs before this transition was made, it is a invaluable tool for home system admins.

    It would have been far less painful to most people to have lost the audio input as that can easily be replicated by a USB device.

    Apple wont be getting any recommendations at this point for macbook purchases, from me, until it can produce workarounds for FW DV cameras and target disk mode. Most external firewire HD also have USB ports but they don’t work nearly as well for large file transfer like video at this point.

    For those who would suggest that all users who wish to make video buy a macbookpro I would say that the macbook is more than sufficient these days to run iMovie.

    Apple you really @#&*^! up this decision! REDESIGN the macbook and put firewire 800 in immediately!

  5. Lahurt Says:

    Firewire is a vital technology for indie musicians and video makers… we are not a small bunch of noisy mac fans… for example ALL serious good quality prosumer audio interface is base on firewire… check out Digidesign, MOTU, M-Audio, presonus, Apogee, TC Electronics, Tascam. Mackie, Presonus, Yamaha, etc…. I wonder what those companies have to say about Apple´s decission on droping firewire…

  6. Ash Says:

    When Apple removed the floppy, modem, and adb ports from the iMac, there were cheap usb alternatives available for those who wanted them. By removing the Firewire port from the MacBook, Apple has effectively told all its users to either replace all of their Firewire devices, many of which are decidedly not cheap, or buy some other computer.

    No doubt Jobs would like to upsell as many people as possible to the MacBook Pro. But for those who are otherwise happy with what the MacBook provides, a $700 “upgrade” for want of a $7 part doesn’t make any sense.

  7. Daniel Says:

    One thing Apple seems to have forgotten is that their recent gains in the market are largely from fairly recent converts who are not die-hard mac people. I switched to an iBook 3 years ago, and it’s about time for me to consider a new machine. However, firewire is a non-negotiable item for me; I have too many firewire devices to consider replacing them all. So then, what am I to do: buy a macbook pro that is seriously overpriced for my needs, or go back to windows? Frankly, the answer is obvious.

    I will probably wait a while longer – I don’t expect Jobs to backpedal on this one, but it’s a possibility, and I do prefer OS X over Windows. If he doesn’t, though, he just lost a customer – and a customer who gives computer advice to parents and grandparents at that. As it is, I’ve only convinced one member of my family to even consider a mac; does Job’s think the situation will improve when I switch back myself?

  8. JohnO Says:

    Seen that USB 3.0 will be around in 2009/10 timeframe which gives 4.7Gb/s. So why not stick with FireWire for another year or so then make the move? That would give Video devices at least a chance to adopt the newer technology.

    My ‘old’ (by 2 months!) white macBook seems in some ways superior to the new entry model, by the time I get a new one I expect USB 3.0 will be adopted….

  9. Andres Lucero Says:

    Hi. Guess what? Old white Macbooks with Firewire are still available. Cheaper even.

    The majority of people buying new Macbooks are students and switchers who never had Firewire to begin with. Flash-based camcorders like the Flip are gaining popularity, and they all transfer video over USB. Even iPods moved away from Firewire a couple of generations ago. Average consumers don’t have any need for it.

  10. Jon Says:

    After 10 happy years as a mac user, I am for the first time, worried about the stability of the company. I fear that Apple’s removal of FireWire from the line (i fear the macbook may quickly by followed by the mini and the iMac leaving fw800 only on the ‘pro’s) may be seen 3 years from now as better for windows than vista was for apple.

  11. Jake Says:

    It stings even more because they left the number of USB ports at 2. But it makes me feel better about buying my plastic Macbook only 4 months ago.

  12. madprof44 Says:

    A query, not a flame: I don’t understand the outrage, can’t you just buy an expresscard34 that gives you two FW 400 ports and a USB 2.0 for good measure? Not being sarcastic here, I’m waiting on my new MBP and like most people have three or four FW drives around: is there anything wrong with fixing the problem with a 65$ expresscard? Aside from the bump, that is. If Apple is right, and they usually are in the end, won’t we all end up using FW 800 anyway once 320 or 500 GB drives seem tiny and old?

  13. Joe Says:

    madprof, where are you going to attach an Expresscard to a new Macbook that has no firewire?

    Only the MBP, which has a firewire port still, has an express card slot.

    There is literally no way to add firewire function to the Macbook now, which rules out iMovie, firewire disks and, most crucially for someone who looks after my friends and family’s Macs, no target disk mode.

    USB is a woeful pretender to the high-bandwidth serial connection throne, and I can understand why it was made the sole interface on the iPod, given that a vast number of iPod customers use a PC. But on the Macbook, for the cost of a little bit of logic board real estate for the chip and an extra port on the side, Apple has cut a big black mark into their new laptop.

  14. Ed H. Says:

    I have four external FireWire hard drives; and if my camcorder hadn’t died earlier this year, I would still be using an SD FireWire-based camcorder.

    Yet I think the erasing of FireWire from the low end (and even the thin-and-light higher-end,) systems is just fine. No FireWire on the MacBook, Mac mini, or MacBook Air is not a problem. But it *MUST* stay on the higher-end systems. At least for a few more revisions. MacBook Pro and Mac Pro for sure. The iMac is the tossup. They only added FW800 when the 24″er came out, which then trickled down. I think putting ONLY FW800 on the 24″, then removing FW400 from the smaller ones would be okay.

    My reasoning? Apple has always been on the leading edge tech-wise. They may not have invented USB, but they popularized it (indeed, on the iMac, it replaced ALL of Apple’s previous external peripheral busses, including Apple-proprietary ones.) They may not have invented WiFi, but they popularized it. They shipped with CD-ROM drives standard before most other companies. They have had no problem ditching two complete processor architectures when needed (68k and PPC.) They were the first to ditch the floppy, the first to ditch older peripheral busses (again, with USB, and later FireWire replacing SCSI.)

    I was a big proponent of FireWire. But since USB 2.0 has caught up on the ‘consumer’ side, I will concede that it is less important to consumers. On the ‘pro’ side, it still has a bit of life. But eSATA is what should take over for storage, so only extreme-niche products haven’t been replaced with either USB 2.0 or eSATA. (I *AM* disappointed that the new MacBook Pro doesn’t have eSATA. Even the MacBook should have this; and use Target Disk Mode through eSATA.)

    In summary: This is fine on ‘consumer’, but ‘pro’ should have FW800 for a while. (All systems other than ‘thin-and-light’ should also get eSATA.)

  15. SJobs Says:

    Lol Macs!

    Seriously, this is pathetic. Once again the apple community show themselves to be ignorant, luddite snobs. Those complaining about the lack of FireWire represent a minority amongst a minority (and no – certainly not la creme de la creme). Please, wake up.

  16. Duh Says:

    Why is this surprising? It has nothing to do with FireWire, or maybe only a little bit anyway. It’s all about invalidating the previous generation of devices so you have to continue spending money on incremental upgrades. Every now and again they actually come out with something cool, but the vast majority of their products are small improvements that over time force you shell out more cash for all the supporting attachments.

    Of course, it’s nothing unique to them, Microsoft does the exact same stuff. The primary reason for the existence of Vista is to sell more copies of the new version of Office and other products.

  17. MacGuy Says:

    w00t apple, way to go tossing a DEAD technology away, I rejoice when i see this happen because i know that the rest of industry will follow suit, and soon enough, we wont have 5 different data transfer technologies, we will have one, highly efficient one that is cheap to produce and readilly available..

  18. Frank Says:

    I remember talking to a Apple Rep when the first MacBook Pro and MacBook were coming out the lack of a small format MacBookPro and the Apple Rep said that MacBook will fill that gap. That was okay when he MacBook had decent performance, Firewire and Target Disk mode. But now they removed Firewire and Target Disk mode from the MacBooks this will render the MacBook to the “truly” consumer laptop and not a small format MacBookPro. I wish they would release an small format (ie 12 to 13 inch display) MacBookPro to fill this gap and leave the MacBook as a true consumer laptop without the Firewire.
    Many professional loved the 12-inch PowerBook most people complaining about the lack of Firewire is there is no small format MacBookPro.
    Apple, please create an small format MacBookPro.
    Another problem is only glossy display. Please allow us, the people who buy Apple hardware, to decide which display to get. I have glossy display MacBookPro and I have some loves but have some hates on the glossy display. I, other Apple buyers, would like to have an option for matte or glossy display.
    Apple is loosing its mind to “please” the investors and screw the Apple buyers.

  19. Douglas Says:

    With 4 fire bricks of 300 GB’s each of memory and a slew of other devices, there is no way I would get the Fireless machine. Perhaps soon I will look for a Used Pro machine in my price range.

  20. Tim Says:

    I am INVESTED in firewire products. Just because the latest cameras don’t use firewire is irrelevant to me!!!

    this just leaves me with a sick feeling in my stomach.

  21. Tom Courtney Says:

    My response to Apple feedback:

    I DON’T BELIEVE APPLE LISTEN TO THEIR CUSTOMERS but I’m writing now because I’m so upset, disappointed and shocked at the loss of the functionality that Firewire gave use, that I can’t let this moment go without response.

    The breathtaking arrogance of removing such an important legacy interface means that I can no longer trust Apple to provide me with tools I need to keep working.

    As I don’t trust Apple — and trust is the ONE thing companies can’t afford to destroy; I just don’t feel safe relying on Apple computers any more.

    12 years of evangelical Mac use and promotion — through the dark ages of OS 7.6 and the uncertainties of OS X 10.1 to now; a numb, cold sense that Apple DON’T ASK, DON’T LISTEN and DON’T CARE.

    There’s a party going on at Apple, the music’s pounding and the cash is rolling in but the musicians, photographers, videographers and creatives who have shown the world how useful and flexible the Mac is have had the door slammed in their faces. For what; a $7 port on the side of a laptop?
    It makes no sense, so what faith can there be that Apple won’t make just as arrogant and senseless a decision in the future.

    The Mac’s market share is rising; Apple won’t miss me at all, in the head long rush to join the Apple party. I know plenty of people, savvy in both PC and Apple worlds who wouldn’t give up their PC, it’s flexibility and hardware choice, for the world.
    They’re not stupid or frightened people, in fact they are empowered and aware enough to deal with the complexities of Windows which have frightened away so many of the feeble, into the arms of Apple.

    The reward for coping with that complexity is the opportunity to buy whatever hardware they need to get the job done. No enslavement to One voice, One power,
    One supplier.
    I must say I’m daunted at the prospect but I know I won’t be the only one who has to face it.

  22. darth (UK) Says:

    Oh dear, oh dear… Is that post on the 17th really from Steve Jobs??? I know you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but I can’t believe the belittling arrogance of the man (if it is). I love(d) Macs; I have 5 of them – starting with my B&W G3. My main one is the 17″ MBP, followed closely by my G4 Mini and my G4 Mirror Door. I was horrified to the point of nearly not buying the MBP when Apple moved from beautiful RISC processors to complicated Intels, and since then Apple is getting more and more into bed with M/S, to the point where I’m thinking I may as well go back to PCs.

    I too have various F/W peripherals… I have 2 camcorders that use it. I sometimes use the Target Mode. And today I will have a F/W800 enclosure for my spare 2.5″ drive delivered: I use this for Carbon Copy Cloning my OS on a weekly basis; as well as being able to boot into Tiger, if need be. And I will also be receiving a 1TB MyBook Studio to use as my primary backup.

    The MyBook, as some will know, as well as F/W800/400 has eSATA… I just bought an Expresscard with this (the new MB ought to at least have an eSATA port, if not an Expresscard slot). Brief testing has shown me that eSATA is massively faster than USB2. I shall be using the eSATA for this drive and Time Machine. My current 400GB drives are USB2 which I find boringly slow.

    On the subject of the 17″… I don’t think I’m the only one out here that suspects Apple are going to make it obsolete! Why was there no mention of a new ‘unibody’ for the 17″ in the pipeline? Despite me slowly, but surely, falling away from Apple, I much prefer MAC OS X to Windows, and I love my 17″ MBP. If however it breaks once out of warranty, unless Apple have made a new ‘unibody’ version, with F/W and Expresscard/eSATA, I shall be moving to a laptop made by ROCK (and running MAC OS X on that (and I know people already running Leopard on PCs)).

    Just after I bought my MBP I was told of these ROCK laptops… Check their site; Just look at the specs, and that warranty! And 3 HDDs! They even do one with a TWENTY INCH screen!…

    Intel® Core™2 Quad processor Q9550 2.83GHz, 12MB Cache, 1333MHz
    2x NVIDIA 9800M GTX 1GB GDDR3 High Performance SLi Graphics
    17″ WUXGA X-Glass TFT Screen (1920 x 1200)
    Up to 8GB DDR2 RAM (available up to 800MHz)
    Up to 960GB 7200rpm RAID Hard Drive (or 1.5 Terabyte 5400rpm RAID Hard Drive)
    RAID 0, 1 and 5 options for data integrity and additional performance
    Optional Blu-ray or HD DVD Optical Drive
    TV Tuner (Optional)
    Intel Pro 802.11a/b/g/n Integrated Wireless LAN
    Gigabit 10/100/1000 LAN
    1 x IEEE1394 Firewire (only 400 though)
    4 x USB 2.0
    Bluetooth (so I can use my Wireless Mighty Mouse)
    Express Card Slot (So I can run eSATA and/or F/W800!!!)
    7 in 1 Card Reader( MS / MS Pro / MS Duo / SD / Mini-SD / MMC & RSMMC)
    S-Video out, VGA & DVI Port
    Webcam with video recording
    Surround sound with 4 speakers
    7.1 Surround Sound Output
    Microsoft® Windows® Vista Home Premium (higher versions optional)
    Roxio Creator™ 7
    Bullguard Internet Security Anti-Virus protection
    3 Year pan-European Collect & Return Warranty
    7 day peace of mind guarantee, return your notebook within 7 days and we’ll give you your money back (excl. carriage charges)

    Sorry Apple, but if you don’t start seeing what we – that pay your wages – want, it’s Adios! xx

  23. johnny Says:

    all my pro audio stuff in the studio is firewire powered. i use my “macbook” on the go all the time. reason why i got a macbook in the 1st place is b/c i have a mac pro in the studio to do hard processing so i don’t need anything powerful; but its small and easy to pull out to do quick work in the car or bus. but the new macbook i cannot do that, i would have to upgrade all my audio/midi interfaces. or spend 700 more for firewire. (macbook pro) this makes me sad, so ill be more than happy to not upgrade 🙂

  24. Johnson Schwanz Says:

    What’s the big deal? If you need a FW notebook, get a Pro, or an older PlasticBook.

  25. Firewire400 Says:

    What insteresting is the increasing number of PC motherboard that have Firewire 400 as built-in the last few years.

    As someone who services Macs I target mode makes it easy for me to do and less bench time for the customer.

    FW 800 should have been added to the macbook or add an expresscard slot

  26. less ignorant Says:

    What the big deal… apple treats is customers like some soviet regime treats its citizens (it knows what best and gives you no choice). A Macbook Pro is how much heavier and bigger? Right I’m going to run final cut express, aperture, logic etc. in windows

  27. R Says:

    Apple is getting more and more arrogant, as its marketshare increases. In about 5-10 years, it will be as bad as Microsoft at its hideous worst. This discarding of the matte screen, you do a google search for , and you’ll see that most polls have between 40-60% people preferring matte. For Apple to discard the matte screen, ONLY because it wanted to create this shiny, pinnacle of graphic design artisty — without any regard for people who need to work with computers for many hours, staring at the screen, often in very brightly lit environments, where it is NOT POSSIBLE TO RE-ORIENT THE COMPUTER TO GET RID OF REFLECTIONS. We’re not saying glossy is better, or matte is better. JUST GIVE US THE OPTION, AND DON’T THRUST YOUR PREFERENCE ON US.

  28. Jen Says:

    I was hoping that this was to be the Pismo replacement, so overdue.

    Where to go from here?

    Blowed if I know.

    (wanders off screen right, muttering obscenities)

  29. Ujwala Says:

    some warning would’ve been nice. i’ve backed up my old pb on an external fw iomega drive since i was planning to upgrade to the macbook a month later. and now there is no fw for me to retrieve my contents from the external drive!! and this is apple tech and promoted by them for so many years. why so suddenly? why not announce that with the next interation no fw port. or better yet why not make sure that there was an adapter available at the time of the launch?? i’ve been surfing but no links to such an adapter as yet.

  30. Cory Says:

    I know tons of people who have been using the old macbooks for audio production, and you’re hard pressed to find a decent audio interface without firewire. For me, this is a deal breaker, since it’s in keeping with apple’s latest trend of catering to their ipod converts, instead of the artists, musicians, and scientists who have been using apple since OS 9. it’s like they’re intentionally making their computers less useful.

  31. Bill Says:

    I’m an IT professional and a musician. I’ve been using a Powerbook G4 12 since they started making them. I use it for everything – developing software for clients, troubleshooting customers’ systems, configuring servers in data centers, and recording and editing music. Firewire is crucial to my business, my productivity, and my creativity. Just as important is the small size of the 12 inch Powerbook. I travel a lot with this machine, on foot, on buses, on planes, and I set it up in impossibly cramped work-spaces. I will NEVER buy a 15 inch laptop – it’s just too big.

    The aluminum 13 inch Macbooks have everything I need – features, power, small size. Firewire is the only thing missing. I have money to buy a new machine now, and I would even pay “pro” prices for a Pro model of the new 13 inch Macbook with firewire. With no viable option from Apple however, I will not be purchasing.

  32. Paul Says:

    I believe that apple did this as a marketing scheme. Most consumers in my opinion don’t need firewire. Not everyone uses a macbook and requires firewire, usb hard dives are more common in my opinion and I barely come across Firewire cables. Consumers though will notice the graphic improvements.

    Thats my insight, its annoying but I’ve never used Firewire except for target disk mode once.

  33. Oscar@MO Says:

    You wrote, “One thing seems certain: FireWire ain’t coming back to MacBooks.” Well, many are happy that you were wrong.

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