The final specifications for USB 2.0, boasting 40 times the bandwidth of USB 1.1, will be announced today and appear in peripherals by year end.

The successor to USB 1.1 will be unveiled at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in San Francisco. Pat Gelsinger, vice president of Intel's Desktop Products Group, is expected to detail the final specs in a keynote.

Plans for USB 2.0 were announced last year by the USB 2.0 Promoter Group, consisting of Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lucent Technologies, Microsoft, NEC Technologies, and Philips Electronics NV. USB 2.0 ports and peripherals could be widely available next year.

Although USB 2.0 will be faster than the current IEEE 1394 standard used in Apple's current Mac systems, which tops out at about 400 mbps, Intel officials say they view the two specs as complimentary rather than competing. That's because IEEE 1394 is a peer-to-peer connection, that will appear on a wide variety of consumer electronics, while USB 2.0 is specific to PC peripherals.

USB 2.0 extends the speed of connections between peripherals and PCs to up to 480 megabits per second, compared to the 12mbps capacity of USB 1.1. This makes it especially useful for high-bandwidth devices and applications such as scanners, storage, and digital still and video cameras.

The new spec will be backward-compatible, so existing USB devices can run on the new ports - although at their existing, slower speeds. However, USB 2.0 can simultaneously run multiple USB 1.x peripherals off the same port.