LaCie today announced plans to be the first to market with FireWire2/1394b products, offering data-transfer speeds of 800Mbps.

LaCie has purchased the first shipment of FireWire 2 (1394b) bridges from manufacturer Oxford Semiconductor. The move to the new FireWire standard has been long-awaited – USB 2.0 is now available, and its current speed competes directly with that of FireWire. LaCie's next-generation devices will also support USB 2.0.

LaCie plans to release new products integrating the technology before anyone else. It's already discussing plans to introduce mass-storage products encased in its new-look D2 enclosures with capacities in excess of 300GB.

With a major manufacturer such as LaCie in the frame, Apple – the original developer of FireWire – is unlikely to be far behind.

LaCie CEO Philippe Spruch said: "With greater speed, bandwidth and distance capabilities, the second generation of FireWire is bound to become the interface of choice for digital-content creators. Oxford's technological breakthrough will allow us to be the first to offer the fastest disks on the market to FireWire users."

IEEE1394b is the next-generation for FireWire. It offers data-transfer speeds of 800Mbps, against the 400Mbps of the current implementation of FireWire. The supported distance has also been improved, with 1394b, reaching 100 metres at 400Mbp, or up to 50 metres at 200Mbps. Plans exist to take speeds to more than 1.6Gbps over plastic optical-fibre cables.

Yesterday, Macworld reported the 1394 Trade Association's recent interoperability tests in Taiwan. New 1394b devices were tested on FireWire device daisy chains at this event, which the organiser's called: "The most successful yet".

Like USB 2.0, the standard is backward compatible, while manufacturing costs are said to be cheaper. FireWire 2 is expected to penetrate new markets, such as the automobile manufacture.

Apple and LaCie sources were unavailable for comment as this major story went to press.