Apple released preview software that allows networking over FireWire using Internet Protocol (IP) Wednesday.

Apple, which released the software to developers, said: "All Apple computers sold today include one or more FireWire ports. Because FireWire can transfer data at up to 400Mbps, it is suitable for networking and clustering solutions."

The IP over FireWire Preview Release adds support for using the Internet Protocol TCP/IP over FireWire. When installed, Macs and other devices can use existing IP protocols (such as AFP, HTTP, FTP and SSH) over FireWire. Rendezvous can also operate to identify and configure devices once IP over FireWire is installed.

Network hub Industry observers see Apple's move as a further extension of its digital-hub plans, enabling the Mac to control a TV in another room over FireWire, for example.

Apple's IP over FireWire Preview Release adds a new Kernel Extension to Mac OS X that supports the existing network services architecture.

Once installed, developers can add FireWire as the IP network node in the Network Preferences Pane. Two Macs can then link up over FireWire using IP to exchange data, or to share an Internet connection, Apple claims.

FireWire development has reached a critical stage with the introduction of a new version of the standard called FireWire2, or 1394b. This doubles the data transfer speed to 800Mbps, operates over longer cables and currently offers throughput of 80Mbps, reports claim.

Apple has not yet announced any plans for FireWire2. However, the company acquired FireWire silicon manufacturer Zayante earlier this year, and the 1394 Trade Association has adopted Apple's trademark, logo and symbol as the identity of the brand.

LaCie has already announced plans to introduce products based on FireWire2 – the company expects to ship the first such products in February, but hopes to exhibit them at Macworld Expo San Francisco.