US: CEntrance has announced details of a new partnership with Oxford Semiconductor intended to "create a global support solution for audio and consumer electronics OEMs" based around Oxford's low-cost FireWire audio controllers. Following on from discussion about the likely future adoption (or otherwise) of FireWire in PSN-e 32, the association reinforces both companies' long-term interest in IEEE 1394, writes David Davies.
Under the new arrangement, Oxford Semiconductor will continue to offer its standard-compliant FireWire audio controllers while CEntrance will "take a more active role" in supporting Oxford's clients with custom hardware, software and driver solutions, including CEntrance's recently released aggregating drivers for the Windows Vista operating system.
"Oxford and CEntrance started working together in 2004 when we developed the first generation FireWire drivers for their FW970 chip," CEntrance managing director Michael Goodman tells PSN-e. "The relationship went so well that now Oxford decided to outsource all of their customer support, including Vista driver development, to CEntrance_ Today, our industry-leading drivers are based on third generation technology, supporting not just the 970, but also the newest FW971 - a flexible, low-cost, fully standards-compliant interface [that] is ideal for connecting up to 16 audio channels, and SPDIF and MIDI to Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows-based PCs."
Goodman also responds to the points raised in last week's PSN-e story concerning In-Stat's less-than-uplifting report about the future of FireWire (FireWire set to decline?) Describing CEntrance as "standards agnostic, meaning that we are prepared to work with any technology as long as it benefits the customer," he goes on to cite a long list of advantages for IEEE 1394 over USB, including lower latency, higher overall stability and smaller CPU load.
But what of the long-term prospects for this technology? "Overall, FireWire will probably find its way into professional applications, where mission-critical reliability, cross-platform compatibility and stand-alone operation are the name of the game," he suggests. "[Meanwhile] USB will be reduced to the consumer segment, where lack of uniformity in driver support, set-up headaches, an occasional crash-and-loss of data are clearly very upsetting, but nevertheless rather habitual by now."
Goodman points out, however, that CEntrance does actually manufacture a number of high-quality USB solutions, including the DAC1 PC audio interface.