Apple users rage over missing FireWire

Users moan that dropping FireWire from the MacBook only serves to force people into buying the MacBook Pro.

Apple customers unhappy that the company dropped FireWire from its newest notebooks are venting their frustrations on the company's support forum in several hundred messages.

Within minutes of Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrapping up a launch event in Cupertino, users started several threads on the company's support forum blasting the omission of a FireWire port on the new MacBook laptop.

"Apple really screwed up with no FireWire port," said Russ Tolman , who inaugurated a thread that by Thursday had collected more than 200 messages and been viewed over 5,000 times.

"No MacBook with [FireWire] -- no new MacBook for me," added Simon Meyer in a message posted today.

The two new MacBook configurations, which are priced at US$1,299 and $1,599, include a pair of USB 2.0 ports, as did earlier models, but lack the FireWire 400 port their predecessors boasted.

FireWire is Apple's name for the IEEE 1394 interface and data transfer specification. Ironically, Apple has been one of the biggest boosters of the spec and was one of the primary drivers of the technology when it began development in the late 1980s.

Apple first added FireWire to its computers in early 1999, when Jobs -- who had returned three years earlier to the company he co-founded -- unveiled the technology at a MacWorld Conference and Expo. "Think of FireWire as USB, but rather than running at 12 megabits-per-second it's running at 400 megabits-per-second," said Jobs then. "And it's already an industry standard."

Many of the users who posted messages this week said that they were photographers, videographers or musicians who relied on FireWire to connect hardware ranging from cameras to drum kits. Others were disappointed that the new MacBooks could not be connected to their current FireWire external hard drives.

Several mentioned that FireWire's disappearance meant that the new MacBooks could not be connected to other Macs using Target Disk Mode (TDM), a procedure that's often used as a last resort to retrieve files from a dead system. TDM is also used by Apple's Migration Assistant, a utility that copies files and settings from one Mac to another.

Although the upper-end MacBook Pro -- which Apple also revamped and relaunched Tuesday -- includes a FireWire 800 port, users bemoaned the FireWire loss on the more affordable MacBook models.

"Dropping FireWire from the MacBook only serves to force people into buying the MacBook Pro," said a user identified as "miniconvert" yesterday. "I don't need a backlit keyboard, 15" screen or any of the other small things the Pro model provides. I'm perfectly happy sacrificing a little bit in speed to save a lot of cash. I need FireWire so I can take videos of my kid off my SD camcorder and then upload to YouTube, put on a DVD or what ever I'd like to do."

Others pointed out that the previous-generation MacBook, which Apple is still selling at a reduced price of US$999, includes a FireWire port.

Other threads about FireWire going missing tallied several hundred more messages, where some users called on Apple to publicly declare its intentions or rethink its decision. "The MacBook Pro has FireWire 800," said Ross Corsair , who said he uses Macs in his small video production business. "But that costs US$1,000 more. And will FireWire 800 exist next year on any Apple computers? I was going to purchase a new Apple laptop this week. I won't be now."

Apple has ditched technologies before, most notably when it was one of the first computer makers to abandon the 3.5-in. floppy drive in favor of an internal CD-ROM drive.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on users' reactions to the disappearance of FireWire from the new MacBook laptops.

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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