A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) directive which came into force this month, requires cable operators to provide a Firewire (IEEE1394) -enabled set-top box to customers who require them. The FFC have long been promoting interoperability between STBs and other equipment, and this looks like another step down that road.
According to an HP paper on the subject (linked below) “The distributed set top architecture becomes more compelling when multiple devices, interconnected by a 1394 cluster/backbone network, can access an access network gateway simultaneously.”
Using the Firewire interface, customers will be able to connect their STB to a range of other devices, such as PVRs or Firewire enabled PCs and Macintoshes. Customers will be able to capture MPEG2 streams to for storage elsewhere – provided it’s within the 4.5m reach of a 1394 cable.
A Firewire interface doesn’t mean that customers will just be able to rip content – anything coming through that port can still be protected by DRM measures, IEEE1394 is just an interface after all. However, the inclusion of a Firewire port does allow the distribution of protected content to other devices around the home.