The final specification for USB 2.0, boasting 40 times the bandwidth of the existing spec, is expected to be announced today and appear in peripherals by year end.
The successor to USB 1.1 is being announced at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in the US. Pat Gelsinger, vice president of Intel's desktop products group, is expected to detail the final spec in a keynote.
Plans for USB 2.0 were announced last year by the USB 2.0 Promoter Group, consisting of Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lucent Technologies, Microsoft, NEC Technologies, and Philips. USB 2.0 ports and peripherals could be widely available next year.
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 such high-bandwidth devices and applications as scanners, storage, and digital still and video cameras.
The new spec will be backward compatible so that existing USB devices can run on the new ports - although at their existing, slower speeds. However, USB 2.0 will let you simultaneously run multiple USB 1.x peripherals off the same port. And you won't suffer the speed loss you'd experience with a USB 1.x port once the combined bandwidth of the devices exceeds the 12Mbps maximum of that port.
Although USB 2.0 will be even faster than the current IEEE1394 standard (also called FireWire by Apple and iLink by Sony), which tops out at about 400Mbps, 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.