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February 18, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

Apple Computer Inc has relented over its plans to significantly increase the royalties due on the use of its FireWire IEEE 1394 high speed serial bus standard, and has agreed to form a patent pool with five of its biggest licensees. Apple, along with Compaq Computer Corp, Matushita Electric Co (Panasonic), Royal Philips Electronics, Sony Corp and Toshiba Corp, will work together to create a joint licensing program that they hope will encourage the industry wide adoption of FireWire. Apple, which invented the core FireWire technology, had recently put forward expensive licensing proposals that caused widespread criticism and looked like they would stall adoption of the technology. But the new deal, driven by Sony and brokered by the 160-company strong 1394 Trade Association, looks likely to the cut the cost of licensing FireWire to between 25 cents and 50 cents per system, rather than the dollar per port that Apple is said to have been asking for. Given the potential for multiple ports per system, both internally and externally, costs were beginning to look prohibitive. Some FireWire licensees – including, according to sources, Compaq, Intel Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co – were in favor of using the so-called 1394b version of the standard not including any Apple patents (CI No 3,582), although this would have involved major re-implementations. Sony was concerned that makers of low-cost Windows CE-based devices would have found that Apple’s charges made FireWire to expensive to use. The patent pool will couple all the essential FireWire patents together for licensing purposes. James Snider of Texas Instruments Inc, chairman of the 1394 TA, called the move very positive – this was the way we were hoping things would go and we are pleased with the result. Meanwhile, FireWire faces a challenge, at least at the low-end, from Intel Corp’s USB bus version 2.0, which is expected to be unveiled at the Intel Developer’s Forum next week. Intel and Apple are supporting both FireWire and USB.

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