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QotD: Second-Class

Question: Is Apple treating Mac users as second-class citizens with the push towards USB 2 over Firewire on new iPods?

My Answer: Yep. Apple, if you want to cater to PC people, just put both in the gosh darn box, mmmk? Firewire is faster.

You are encouraged to answer the Question of the Day for yourself in the comments or on your blog.

17 Responses to "QotD: Second-Class"

  1. Firewire Forever

    From nslog(): Question: Is Apple treating Mac users as second-class citizens with the push towards USB 2 over Firewire on new iPods? I think so. I can understand it though, since most people buy iPods and hook 'em up to...

  2. Well I don't think they are looking at treating Apple users as second-class. I'm thinking that some bean counter said they could save money buy only providing a cable that both platforms can use. Plus it does not get all the PC users upset that they had to go spend an additional $19 for the USB cable.

  3. Yes. Why not push FireWire on PCs? I recently added an Adaptec PCI FireWire card to my Linux box for less than $35. It works great and I can even mount a Mac formatted SmartDrive Firelite 60.

  4. Niels, not all Macs have USB 2.0. I sometimes use a USB cable with my PowerBook G4. It's just as fast as FireWire, but for anyone with an older Mac that only has USB 1.x, it will be painfully slow. Why not include the combination USB/FireWire cable?

  5. "not all Macs have USB 2.0"

    Not all PCs have FireWire. I agree with Niels in that its probably just bean counting.

    "Why not push FireWire on PCs?"

    Push who? Users? Some users would not be comfortable installing a PCI card. It would either turn them off, or they would pay to have it installed.

  6. I don't think Apple is thinking about in terms of Mac vs. PC, I think they were making a smart business decision. Whether you use USB or Firewire you only need one cable and the other gathers dust. Even if that extra cable only costs Apple $1 that's still over $4 million a quarter in costs. So you drop the cable that is in the least amount of demand.

    Of course they also dropped prices and in most of those cases the price drop is more than the cost buying the firewire cable. So you still have a cheaper product than you had last week.

    As for older Macs not supporting USB 2 neither do older PCs so there it is not shortchanging Apple users just users with older machines. Of course it's to be expected if you have old hardware you may have to upgrade to deal with newer peripherals.

    So no, they're not shortchanging Apple users they're just making a sound business decision and dropping their product prices at the same time.

  7. It may be a sound business decision, but I still don't like it.

    Also, while all macs have had USB 1.1 for years, USB 2.0 only started showing up in macs in the last 2 years or so. My powemac G4 does not have USB 2.0 ports. I have the last model before the G5s where released.

    On windows they have been offering USB 2.0 ports for some time... (3+ years) apple was late to that ball game.

  8. Actually, I've got both USB2 and FireWire on my PC... USB2 is faster with my iPod and all of my data parts. FireWire is faster only for miniDV recording.

    On a bit per bit basis, FW is 400Mbps and USB2 is 450Mbps...

    If anything, I would have expected FireWire2 to have been included in this round of iPod, but I guess I guessed wrong.

  9. Randy, if we were playing that card game I'd be yelling "bullshit" right now.

    USB 2.0 is much slower than FW. It's got a higher burst - 480 - but for a transfer of any longer than a second or so, it's slower. Plus, as soon as you plug a USB 1.1 device into a 2.0 chain, the chain slows down.

  10. Well, look at the figures. If Macs have the 3% market share, with Windows around low-to-mid 90s (guesstimate?), then it's probably a safe assumption that more people who have iPods use Windows computers. And it's pretty much common fact now that all Windows computers now have at least USB 1, if not USB 2, whereas surprisingly few come with FIrewire ports (as a cost factor).

    Now, look at it from Apple's POV. Say a Firewire cable costs Apple $5. Now, as the analysts are expecting Apple to move, what, 4m iPods this quarter, that's a $20m increase in profit. While $20m may be small potatoes to a big company like Apple, that's $20m more they can spend on R&D on iPods (and, for that fact, Macs).

    They're not abandoning Macs. AFAIK (with no research on the topic), most new Macs come with USB 2 ports. Granted, it's no Firewire, but it's still USB2. And USB2 is compatible with USB1. So, while it might be slow as ass, it's still technically compatible. And a Firewire cable is only $20, so if you're blowing $300 on an iPod, $20 shouldn't be _too_ hard to come up with.

  11. I was feeling annoyed at this, on the basis that I have just two USB ports & one Firewire on my iBook (same on the Mac mini if it ever arrives). Then it occurs to me it uses the same dock connector, so I'll just keep the cable I have now.

    Perhaps (slightly) more annoying is the lack of a dock with any of the iPods now, as I'll finally want one when the Mac mini arrives. And then I could persuade myself just to get a photo model.

  12. Not that I am an expert.. but the Firewire data transfer may not be quite as tuned on windows, which is why Randy said that USB 2.0 is faster.

    But Firewire should have a better overall performance...

  13. I wonder how much it really matters after the initial import of your iTunes/iPhoto libraries to your iPod? Most of the time, when I update, it's only one or two CD's, this last time is was more like 8, but still.

    Of course, I just ordered one, and I don't have USB2, so I had to order a FireWire cable, too, so I guess I should be pissed! Grrr!

  14. ugh, you guys are missing out on a couple of things.

    1) FireWire IS faster than USB2 in all real world cases, EXCEPT this one. The HD's access speed is slower than both connections. In usage the difference in transfer speeds is nominal due to the HD inside the iPods.

    2) USB2 is 480MBps, FireWire is 400MBps and USB2 will almost never hit that speed in any real world use. For sustained transfers your lucky if it hits more than half of that. USB hubs kill transfer speed and the more devices you have the slower it goes. Firewire has no such limitations, speed is not impacted by number of devices, and hubs aren't necessary. Firewire is superior in every way, but Apple did not drop FireWire.

    3) They merely didn't include the cable. You can buy one.

    4) FireWire cables cost more than USB2 cables of the same length, so if Apple is pinching pennies, then removing a cable that a large percentage of users may never use is a good decision.

    So in short, Apple is being cheap and not including a more expensive cable that the larger percentage of users don't use despite it's medium being faster overall, but not for this use. Seems sound to me, they are throwing the bath water out, but not the baby.

  15. Interesting analogy, Karl.

  16. I dunnoo, I would have wished for a long time that Apple was much more proactive in promoting Firewire, and it feels a bit just like they have let the wintel cartel swipe their lunch money again.

    But I am not of the "sky is falling" school either, thinking Apple is abandoning firewire support completely, they are just taking some stuff out of the box to meet a price point, especially since it seems people have no qualms whatsoever spending 20, 40, 60 bucks here and there to buy rather frivolous accessories for their ipods.

  17. Sorry I had no Idea that the older macs did not have USB 2.0. I figured Macs older than 2 years did not have USB 2.0 but I figured any computer built since 2002 had USB 2.0 on them. I switched about 18 months ago and bought a G5 and it had USB 2.0 and Firewire. (Which I was totally blown away because you rarely get a PC with both Firewire and USB 2.0)