The best advice I ever got on how to make 1394 successful came from “Mr. USB” of Intel. We were speaking at a seminar in Taipei in 1999 when Jim pulled me aside and told me what we were doing wrong with 1394.
“With USB, we focused on finding a market segment we could win, then focusing entirely on winning that spot. For USB, it was mice and keyboards. If we could just win mice and keyboards, we would have been happy. Win that socket and then build on that win. Once we won that, then we could move on to printers then scanners and eventually, the market takes over with things like speakers and things you could never foresee.
The problem with 1394 is that you want to be all things to all people. You are spreading yourselves too thin. You don’t have those kinds of resources. You cannot gain that much mindshare from the market all at once. You are not building an image in people’s minds as to what you are. Right now, people are not sure what FireWire is. You need to focus on one thing you can win and that thing is video. Concentrate on being a video connection to camcorders then the video connection between the computer and other audio/video devices. Then grow your market from there.”
I didn’t trust Jim. I thought our survival was a thorn in his flesh. I thought USB could not be the video interface to the computer and this was an Intel way of pushing 1394 into a niche that was useful to Intel and prevented us from competing with USB. I ignored him and continued to move forward with 1394 going into everything.
Years later, I realized that, if I’d followed his advice, we would have been much more successful. This was not the first time, I’d heard this suggested. Adaptec had been pushing for this approach as far back as Comdex 1995. Sometimes the most brilliant marketing is simply recognizing a great idea when someone else presents it.