USB 2.0 was conspicuous by its absence during Apple CEO Steve Jobs's Expo keynote - but a leading figure in bringing the technology to the Mac platform yesterday told Macworld that the company "won't be able to ignore it for long".

Arthur Scotten, president of Orange Micro, said: "Within a year the Intel world will be using USB 2.0 and Apple will feel the pressure to embrace the technology."

Orange Micro is leading the way in bringing USB 2.0 technology to the Mac, recently announcing its OrangeUSB 2.0 Hi-Speed CardBus PC Card for Mac laptops.

FireWire vs USB Apple remains focused on FireWire, its own serial data-transfer protocol. Developers don’t have to pay a royalty-licensing fee for the use of USB 2.0, but developers of FireWire products pay 25 cents per unit to a consortium of FireWire patent holders, including Apple. The backers of USB 2.0 include Microsoft and Intel.

USB 2.0 is backwards-compatible with older USB devices and can be used for high-end data devices, such as USB hard drives and USB CD-RW drives. FireWire's current maximum speed is 400Mbps (megabits per second). USB 2.0, though, supports a maximum throughput of 480Mbps, and USB 1.1’s current specification is 12Mbps.

Scotten added: "FireWire is an intelligent protocol, providing protection for intellectual property for use in the field of audio and digital video, for example. Also, FireWire does not require a host computer to move data, making it ideal for use in consumer devices.

"USB 2.0 is a less expensive solution for things like Webcam video-conferencing and for downloading digital stills speedily into apps such as Apple's new iDVD, for conversion into a slide show.

"FireWire and USB 2.0 can co-exist on a Mac in much the same way that serial and parallel used to. They are not mutually exclusive technologies."