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Apple to charge Licensing Fees for FireWire 88

David Jao writes "According to this story, Apple computer has begun charging a $1 license fee for every FireWire port that is manufactured. This means an extra $1 is charged for every port in the back of a computer, every port on a device, and every link in a device chain." This article talks about how this is probably not such a hot idea on Apple's part. Royalties on a technology that still isn't really accepted yet?
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Apple to charge Licensing Fees for FireWire

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Oh, Apple is SO evil aren't they. They just killed Firewire because they're so greedy...

    Give me a fucking break. Why does everyone want everything for free? You Linux idiots have gotten it into your brain that you're entitled to everything for free, and whoa to you if you try charging anyone a fee!!!

    Do you all work for free? Do you go to work (those of you who DO work that is, and not living off Mommy and Daddy at college) and refuse to pick up a paycheck? Why not! Everything you do should be for the world! How dare you pick up a paycheck for programming! How greedy!

    Apple spent a TON of cash developing something cool, which is Firewire...and now that they want to make a little of that back everyone jumps all over them. How does this promote any R&D?

    What if everyone caves in to people like this? I doubt there would be much more R&D. It would go something like this: "Gee, we have a great idea for a new hardware product, but it will take quite a bit of money to develop it, and if we try to sell it or make any money off of it, the Linux weinys will be all over I guess we just shouldn't do anything....".

    Apple is a corporation folks. It answers to stockholders and boards of directors and things like that. They're in business to make money...not to just spend millions and develop stuff and then give it away for free.

    Unless you program for free, except NO money for ANYTHING you have no room to talk. If you have a job at all, then the same argument could be used for you!

    How DARE you charge money for your services! You WHORE!

  • Microchannel had some good ideas too. But IBM wanted a dollar or two for every Microchannel board made. Guess what; nobody made any and the technology died.
  • Heck, it's about time the PC camp began coughing up a little remuneration to Apple for all the technological innovations that were taken from them. I'm in the PC camp though not in the Microsoft division.

    What's a buck anyway? I'll tell ya... a lousy cup of coffee. :)
  • Posted by jonrx:

    Well, FireWire was a nice try, but then as usual greed has to spoil things...

  • Posted by modefan:

    if licensing fees like this are put onto newer technologies like firewire, then those technologies will never rise to do any good.

    there could be other ways to make money other than killing off your only hope.

  • Posted by jonrx:

    I'm just wandering...
  • Posted by K8_Fan:

    The movie and record companies were going to use the introduction of FireWire as their opportunity to force in a "copy protection system". I saw their plans at the recent Consumer Electronics Show.

    It would prevent any direct digital-to-digital copying of any digital media the copyright holder chooses. They'd start with DVDs and Pay-Per-View events, but of course it would not stop there. Eventually all Digital TV programs and all cable shows would have copy protection (so they can stop you from zapping the commercials) as would all music on the new formats like DVD-Audio.

    Hollywood has a dream of turning your home stereo into a jukebox. Their plans include installing a "smart card" in your future TV set to ensure that you only can watch a program on a particular set and listen to music on a particular receiver.

    This is not paranoia, this was on the wall at the "1394 Pavilion" in the Las Vegas Convention Center last week. If it requires the sacrifice of something as cool as FireWire, so be it.

  • Posted by FreeGestalt:

    I dragged myself through the brunt of the responses to this subject and could only be amazed at the number of people who take issue with a hardware vendor charging for something.

    To wit. It costs tons of money to develop hardware and even the software protocols to run the hardware (hopefully turning it into a standard). Don't think it does? Well how do you possibly explain how the following gets funded and/or accomplished:

    hardware design
    software/firmware design
    testing and validation
    production tooling
    production testing and quality control
    production of the product
    dissemination of the protocols/specs
    packaging, distribution, tech support.

    Now I'm not saying that the $1.00 fee doesn't have possible detrimental effects to the adoption of Firewire technology (I think it is too high). No, I am reminding everyone that it costs money to do things in the non-software world (software can/does cost money to develop too, but the sunk costs can be negligeable in comparison). A lot of money.

    Information may not have a limited supply, but information technology does. That is why there are patents, copyrights, and the laws that enforce them. Standards and the technology they support don't just appear overnight or because a group of well-meaning individuals got together and decided it was so. If you really think that PCI is around because someone/or corporation decided that it would be simply free, than you aren't thinking deep enough. Money is being made off of the standard ... directly and indirectly.

    If Apple owned the manufacturing of IE 1394, which to my knowledge it doesn't, and simply included this $1.00 fee in the price of its port, would you all be whining? No. You wouldn't even know about it. Get the point?

  • Posted by FreeGestalt:

    And if you want a really good additional information about this, read the posts in reply to "Principles of Open Standards".

    Is it really kosher to reply to your own post?
  • I like firewire. It sounds very nifty. I want to see it be the standard.

    One doesn't have to dig very deep into the history of technological standards to see that cheap/mediocre/open standards win over expensive/excellent/closed standards every time.

    That's why this scares me, and I think most of the other posters critical of this licensing scheme.

    Fortunately, I don't see anything even close to firewire out there, so maybe it will succeed in spite of this...

    apple paladins need to chill.

  • Sony, Philips, IBM, and Texas Instruments have licenced Firewire from Apple for a one-time flat fee.

    Dolby noise reduction is licensed, so why can't Apple license Firewire?
  • Is there something WRONG with making money off one's invention?

    I mean - it's an OPEN standard right? IEEE 1394 is the standard. Isn't that the whole point of "openness" - allowing people to see the guts? I didn't think openness was about preventing companies from making money.

    How in any way is this infringing on one's freedom?

    Plenty of technologies have royalty fees associated with them from the outset that have not killed that technology.

    There's a lot of demand for FireWire out there - it's already in major use in digital camcorders - AND - there doesn't seem to be an alternative technology yet. I'd say that makes this a good choice for Apple AND the industry: Apple gets the $$$ now - and if people aren't willing to pay, they'll make an alternative.

  • That $1 /port cost of manufacturing is pure bullshit.

    The arguments in favour of USB for low-bandwidth devices were that it only cost around 80 cents/port, whereas Firewire was about $5.

    If you can find your "analysts report" and link it, I'll apologize and believe you.

  • Those who've read my previous posts know that I'm a viscious Mac-defender. Well, for once I'm going to have to blast Apple. This is greedy lunacy, an attempt to control what weas supposed to be an open-standard. I find it completely repugnant, and once again I go back to my argument that Steve Jobs is an insane fool, albeit lucky enough that a few of his ideas, which usually look like the work of the proverbial million monkeys on a million typewriters, actually do occasionally turn out Hamlet or some other really good thing.

    Fortunately, Apple won't succeed in this gesture. Why? Because Apple wasn't the only FireWire developer. Texas Instruments makes it too, and they don't do this. So if you want FireWire, get it from them.
  • "IEEE standards may include the known use of patent(s), including patent applications, if there is technical justification in the opinion of the standards-developing committee and provided the IEEE receives assurance from the patent holder that it will license applicants under reasonable terms and conditions for the purpose of implementing the standard. This assurance shall be provided without coercion and prior to approval of the standard (or reaffirmation when a patent becomes known after initial approval of the standard). This assurance shall be a letter that is in the form of either a) A general disclaimer to the effect that the patentee will not enforce any of its present or future patent(s) whose use would be required to implement the proposed IEEE standard against any person or entity using the patent(s) to comply with the standard or b) A statement that a license will be made available to all applicants without compensation or under reasonable rates, with reasonable terms and conditions that are demonstrably free of any unfair discrimination." from MacInTouch [] which also has several links to patent and other IEEE information. Maybe you sould get the bylaws chaged...
  • Many people here are saying that $1 is a reasonable amount for the effort that Apple has spent developing this technology. As the original submitter of this story, let me explain why the license fee is a bad thing.

    I do not object to charging money for a product. I object to charging money for a standard. Where would we be if all makers of IBM compatible PCs had to pay a license fee to IBM? What if IDE and SCSI were toll roads? What if VHS had required license fees?

    The assertion that the fee is small is not adequate defense. Months back, the Open Group attempted to levy a "small" fee for X11R6.4. Even though the fee was small, people balked. The problem with a small fee is that it might not stay small.

    For those of you with short memories, the VHS story is instructive. Back in the 80's, JVC invented the VHS standard and held numerous patents on it. Although JVC made money from VHS products, they did not charge anyone a single cent of licensing fees for the standard. Result: VHS trounced the competing (but closed) Beta standard, which everyone agrees is technically superior.

    Restaurants don't buy Pepsi because Pepsi is made by the same company that owns competitors such as Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut. In the same vein, licensing fees for FireWire will discourage hardware vendors from popularizing it. It may be too early to say this, but I am already ready to chalk up FireWire as yet another good Apple technology killed by their short-sighted management.

  • If you're making a USB device, you need a USB manufacturers ID. From memory, this is about $1000: if you're big you really need to join the forum. More $. Everything has a price, you just pay it in different ways. Intel "tax" lots of motherboards, even ones with non-intel CPUs, because of the chipset: noone appears to complain when the charge is contained in the cost of a component, eg the $2 licencing fee to Frauhofer for the MP3 patent in the 3507D decoder chip as used in the MPMAN and the Rio.

    Grow up, $1 is a bargain for what is a high-end port on a machine. Any idea how much IEEE 1394 controller chips cost? Much more than $1...

  • "Royalties on a technology that still isn't really accepted yet?"

    Jobs said that FireWire is in every digital camcorder on the market. That sounds like "accepted" to me. If you want your peecee to talk to digital camcorders, and all major manufacturers do, then you put in FireWire. Period.
  • I've gotta wonder... what if Linux suddenly started costing a buck per install? Would we all go use Windoze or FreeBSD or something instead? I don't have anything that uses FireWire yet (except maybe the SGI's digital camera - I have no idea what it uses!) but if I had the need for it, I'd be a lot more concerned with value than price.
  • by gambit ( 3767 )
    These companies just can't leave well enough alone can they? Why must greed kill good ideas and innovation? I just don't get it.
  • Yes, but Intel is only an investor...C|Net runs on Suns.
  • Yeah, but we all know you'd pay anything to support your Mac habit TAK....just kidding.
  • If anyone bothers to read the article, they'd see that apple has been charging for firewire all along. Early adopters have been paying a 'flat fee'
    rate since day one.

    Who knows ? it is entirely possible that given the
    low volume of firewire peripherals, the pro rated unit cost of the license agreement may be more than $1.

    This may be CHEAPER than prior licensing arrangements.

    It also lowers the 'entry cost' for intending firewire developers.

    This is NOT a case of Apple saying
    "here's something cool you can have for free" and then changing its mind.
  • Sony, Philips, IBM, and Texas Instruments all maintain licences to the technology in which they paid a flat fee for and will not be paying the $1 per/port fee. Apple is the first to announce and bring the technology into the consumer view and made it truley noticable, and they've called it FireWire. If the demand comes and I beleave it will people will want FireWire on their computers and in their consumer devices. Fact is this stuff is just to cool to let die and I beleave that's far from what it's going to do. Companies might not like the fact they have to pay $1 for every port they put into their products but I doubt it will keep them from doing it. Here's a great artical on the whole thing:,4,3 0995,00.html []

  • Who cares? They can only license the name "FireWire", not the standard, IEEE 1394.

    Adaptec has already raised this question. Do a search of "FireWire" on their site.

    Sony also has another name for it, but for the life of me, it eludes me at the moment.

  • Every time I touch a SCSI chain, I spend much more than a dollar's worth of time messing with ID's, termination, and "can we fit another brick on this darn power strip?"!!!

    The only thing that could hurt Apple's FireWire play is not to sell it out. In a sense, FireWire is Appletalk on steroids:

    Apple, much more than Sun, proved that "the network is the computer" by making sure that anyone with two+ Macs and cheap connectors had a network with almost NO setup. But Apple didn't sell that technology to the world, what might have happened if they did?

    FireWire may tell us.

    What consumers should be thinking is: The ultimate plug-and-play vehicle is worth two bucks.

    The first ad might be: remember when you brought your Zip to a friend's house (to pirate software, maybe?) and you forgot the power brick? Well, for two bucks, that nightmare will never happen again!

    Whatever. Apple has saved me enough time to have the luxury to participate in this rockfight.
  • Think of it this way...

    Apple spent a lot of money to put this together,
    so why shouldn't they recover these costs?

    I mean, whats the point of innovating if it isn't
    worthy your while in the end?

    If all those hardware people are charging extra to add the "feature", why shouldn't apple get a piece of the action???

  • Wow, comparing licensing fees with genocide. That's a first.

    If hardware ends up costing too much people won't buy it. They'll stick with other standards or adopt cheaper ones. And, (get this!) no one will die. Pretty cool, huh?
  • OK, $1 isn't much, but that's not the point. Nobody wants to pay royalties to Apple just to have a FireWire port on their machine. We're just going to have to find a different way of getting the same transfer rates to/from our camcorders and such. There's no way I'm going to pay any money to Apple unless I decide to buy a Mac. Apple has once again lost its mind.
  • Some think Apple may be trying to use its position as patent holder to gain a competitive edge in its core market of desktop and graphics publishing.

    How could a technology patented by a corporation become an IEEE standard? What if someone had patented ethernet? How would networking be different? We'd probably be using a different MAC standard, one that had been developed to escape the patent restrictions.

    I'm not against hardware patents, but I am against patenting technology that has been submitted and approved by a standards body. We've seen the damage Fraenhofer(sp?) has done to opening up the MP3 encoding process through their patents, and now we're watching the delay of the digital camcorder's acceptance to the market.

    Perverse, Apple. I think your next IMac should come in a new flavor...rotten. I've been thinking of getting a G3 but now I won't get near your machines, no matter how nice the hardware is.
  • by jmasseo ( 9543 )
    You can't kill a technology by charging extra for the connector. Esp. a good high speed technology like firewire, which already has corporate support(Kinda). If Microsoft charged an extra dollar for Windows98, would anybody care?
  • Apple owns the patent on IEEE 1394 / Firewire technology. Name matters not.
  • Its one or two dollars now, but whats to stop them upping the cost in the future? I think Apple should have the cost tied to inflation (or something silmilar) to stop them charging 5, 10 or 50 dollars in the future.
    As for it being just greedy capitalism, well thats just rubbish. Nobody here would be arguing if Apple didn't spend 7 years of R&D to produce FireWire. Obviously, everyone should vote Communist, but it doesn't mean a developer shouldn't reap some rewards. If they didn't, what would be the incentive? And how could the costs of development be returned? Some people on here are being a little naive.
  • Its obvious that Apple realizes that they will not be able to sell the most machines equipped with Firewire, let alone machines with the best support and most "compatible" peripheals.

    So, seeing Ms and Intel attempts to use Firewire Apple just did the logical thing. If you can't make money off your invention with your own machines, let the other guy do it.

    Still, it won't help establish the use of Firewire. Unless of course one of these big companies gets into a cross-agreement with them and makes machines without a per port cost.

  • My concern about Apple trying to get licensing fee for FireWire/IEEE-1394 is that they will end up being like Sun, who is causing all kinds of headaches in regards to Java licensing.

    This might just end up killing FireWire when other manufacturers favor future and cheaper developments of Fibre Channel, something that will be developed by a large consortium of companies.
  • by TrentC ( 11023 )
    WRONG. They haven't killed Firewire. It will be stock on all new G3's.

    Yeah, but who is going to be making peripherals for that slot if it costs them $1 each?

    I don't know how much that is in terms of costs of manufacturing, but I have to assume from the hubbub that it's not an inconsequential amount.

    Jay (=
    (Likes his Mac, gets annoyed with the manufacturer a lot -- I thought they were over these kinds of bonehead plays...)
  • by TrentC ( 11023 )
    If Microsoft charged an extra dollar for Windows98, would anybody care?

    Apples and oranges.

    For one, we're not talking about an series of pits in a CD (or a set of magnetic impulses on a hard drive platter) we're talking about an actual, consumable, marketable thing -- I still have no idea how they calculate "cost" of engineering software.

    (Well, in MS's case it seems to be "whatever the market will bear, plus 10%".)

    Second, you don't charge an additional dollar just because it costs you an additional dollar to make the damn thing. They'll just add it in the costs of production, and end up raising the price by $2 (or $5 or whatever to make it a round, marketable number).

    Jay (=
  • But it ain't. And that's the point, re:
    "if it were Microsoft that invented Firewire,"

    --They didn't because they don't know or care shit about innovation--and HARDWARE innovation? MICROSOFT? Christ they swipe designs for MICE!

    "and they _didn't_ charge for it, people would be all over their ass about unfair competition and
    driving other people out of the market"

    --Damn right people would be all over their ass--the company has twenty times the market share that Apple does and the equivalent market-power, and the ONLY reason that Microsoft "gives away" anything is to kill competition. Otherwise it overcharges--by comparison--for virtually every one of its products--from its OS(s) to "Office" software to joysticks.

    True, $1 per port is peanuts--it's just that Apple's move, if it's true, doesn't exactly create a good impression of the company, and it may indeed be a bad sign--"My Apple," anyone?

    I like Apple--their hardware (or the hardware they use) is terrific, they're software is decent to fantastic, and they've been pretty smart lately in the marketing area, but if they start turning into Microsoft--hey, fuck 'em.
  • I think Apple is getting desperate...

    They killed the Apple II series (their main source of income at the time) in favor of the Macintoy, rather than try to keep the Apple II up to date, they were shoved towards M$ to get badly-needed money to keep going, and now they're charging extra for a new technology.

    The extra dollar isn't a big deal. It would be interesting to see how they think sometimes, though. Given their past history, it wouldn't surprise me if Apple killed Firewire outright; they like to milk things for money before slitting their own throat.


  • This seems like just another redux in the technology industry. I personally don't think that $1 per port licensing fee is going to do any major damage, and in fact, this may be a very good thing over the long term.

    Consider Adobe's attempt to control the use of Postscript. Not only is the language still the de facto standard for imaging, Adobe's selfishness resulted in MORE competition, as well as better and more affordable products. This happened because people (including Apple) got tired of paying Adobe's high licensing fees. Now we have TrueType as an alternate font technology, more affordable postscript-compatible printers, and VERY affordable access to the typefaces themselves. If Apple gets out of hand with its licensing fees, what will prevent some enterprising company from developing a product that is Firewire-compatible?
  • I'm fine with "1394", but I doubt Joe Consumer would be. The big thing that's going to prohibit consumer adoption is the confusion spread by ten different naming standards (and not the $1 toll).

    Techie: "Just plug the iLink into the Firewire and then the Firewire into the DV-o-licious and that into the 1394. Plug and Play!!"

    Consumer: "Wha? I think I'll just use USB."

  • All I want to say is that I think firewire is going to succeed. 1 dollar isn't much, even in the low margin PC enviroment. But i'll let the future do my talking thank you.
  • Although you open-source preachers and extremists (perhaps fundamentalists? This is becoming almost as bad as Christianity - next thing you know there will be an inquisition!) probably will loathe this move and flame Apple all the more, approach it from the perspective on the company:

    You've spent millions of dollars on developing this ground breaking technology that could overthrow SCSI and IDE and serial ports and parrallel ports and even the recently standardized USB, and you've got to recoupe your investments. Are you going to give it away and sell support? Write a book on it? No, you're going to license it to recoupe the investment so you can afford to improve the technology and/or development new ones.

    $1 a port is not bad at alls. I pay more in gov't taxes to put 3 gallons of gas in my van's tank than I would on a $20 or $50 or $1000 peripheral or even a $2000 computer. I'd rather my money go to computer technology than right-wing politicians.

    - MaineCoon
  • Hmmm. Let's see here: Compuserve introduces a graphic standard (GIF) and lets everyone use it for years; they then impose a $1-per-software-application license fee, arousing the ire of computer users and software developers worldwide by having the nerve to charge for something that was free all along.

    (incidentally, this event also dooms the GIF format and sees JPEG take over as the dominant compressed image format on the web)

    And now we're upset because Apple is being up-front about their desire to recover R&D funds? Please. You can't have your cake and Edith, too. ;p

  • I personally think, 10 cents or a quarter would have been a better price. This is a matter of economics. The higher the price may mean more perhipheral companies will choose to use USB ports for certain items.

    Over time Firewire could have dominated all other ports. Mass production would have brought down the price to that of USB ports, and considering that Firewire is faster, who would need USB or any other port. We would have the simplicity of one Firewire port for everything. But with the extra royalty fee, this will probally not be the case. And it will probally result in Intel comming out with Advanced USB in a few years.

    BTW, does anyone know if Intel charges a royalty for USB?

  • So, Apple decides to revise it's license agreement for future agreements and everyone thinks it's the end of FireWire.


    Apple has created some very cool technology. And, after seeing all of the demos, I am convinced that this will be the future of Video/Computer convergence.

    Remember folks, this is a standard put forth to connect high-quality video devices that just happens to work really good for other devices too (hard drives, CDR, computers, etc). The people buying these devices are already paying a premium, the fee is probally not even raise an eyebrow.

    Apple has been working on FireWire since before the first PowerPC machines came out. If I'm not mistaken, it's been at least a good 6-7 years. Now Apple is trying to earn back some of it's investment by licensing the technology on a port by port basis. And everyone thinks its the end of the world.

    Let me ask you this... knowing the majority of /. are Open Source advocates, would you be willing to give up 6-7 years of your life to develop a really cool technology, and then give it away? I don't mean spending a couple hours a night hacking at some code. I mean your full time job is working on this new cool technology. Most people would have a hard time doing this. Not that they wouldn't want to, it's just they couldn't. It's not economically feasable.

    Now, look at it from Apple's point of view. They have spent millions of dollars developing FireWire. In this time, Apple almost went the way of Commodore and Atari. And they came back from the near dead. And FireWire was one of those core technologies that they didn't can. Considering what they had to go through, I think Apple deserves a buck.
  • article talks about connecting digital camcorders via FireWire. Is it possible to do it via USB port?

    please mail [mailto]
  • If you folks don't think Firewire is an accepted technology now, give it a couple of months. Many, many companies have already licensed Firewire technology from Apple with a one-time fee. They don't owe Apple a cent more... and they are the major players in the industry right now. Already, companies like Compaq, Sony, JVC and several storage-device companies (Iomega included) are sporting devices with Firewire connectivity. And this is just the beginning. This has the potential to be a major source of income for Apple, and I say more power to 'em.
  • Someone earlier posted that Sony gets moolah for each CD-ROM that ships...

    can anyone else cite any major components which have licensing fees? e.g. anything from intel? just curious.

  • I do not object to charging money for a product. I object to charging money for a standard.

    Let's be clear here (or pedantic): A standard is a technical whitepaper, describing how a piece of technology operates. A patent is a legal document that gives certain rights to the inventor. These are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be.

    Where would we be if all makers of IBM compatible PCs had to pay a license fee to IBM? What if IDE and SCSI were toll roads? What if VHS had required license fees?

    There are examples on both sides of the fence -- how about PostScript or PCI? If a new technology is head and shoulders above what's currently available (not just a speedbump), then it's not unreasonable to levy a surcharge and recoup your investment.

    Now if the fee is too high then it'll stifle the market and nobody benefits, but I think $1 / port is reasonable.

    The assertion that the fee is small is not adequate defense. Months back, the Open Group attempted to levy a "small" fee for X11R6.4.

    I think most people balked because they were being charged for something that they weren't previously. If you levy a charge from day zero, everyone knows what they are in for.

  • anybody here remember MicroChannel?
  • Although that initial GET A LIFE comment is more of a flame than a real comment, I have to say that I agree.

    If Apple doesn't charge for this, then why would they go and spend millions in research on this cool stuff in the future? For the good of humanity? Please.

    Now some people are saying "wait until Firewire becomes widespread, then charge." I'm sorry, I thought that was the exact evil thing we were blaming Microsoft for? You want them to have a patent over a basic, everyday technology, and then screw everyone by raising the price? Or would you rather they be honest about what they plan to do and change the price before everyone has standardized on the technology?

    Apple spent money on this. They did the world a favor by inventing a damn cool technology. And they deserve to be paid for it. Period.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"