There may be similar compatibility issues with non-disk FireWire devices such as scanners, cameras, and music processing gear. If the controlling application doesn't support Thunderbolt, it may not work with the adapter.
Device-specific solutions: Enclosures and intermediaries
If you determine that Apple's "universal" adapter solution won't work for you, you'll have to move on to device-specific solutions.
An easy, although somewhat labor-intensive, workaround for external hard drives is to change to a new enclosure that supports either Thunderbolt or USB 3.0, such as New Technology's $99 MiniStack enclosure, which has both USB 3.0 and FireWire interfaces. For hard drive transfer speeds, USB 3.0 and FireWire 800 have equivalent performance. You can purchase the enclosure now to future-proof your drive investment.
What if you have a bevy of external FireWire hard drives? That situation is not uncommon with video professionals. If you don't need portability, you may be able to use a Gigabit Ethernet NAS device, assuming the device supports JBOD (just a bunch of disk) RAID technology, such as Synology's $429 four-bay DS413j. Depending on the NAS device's firmware, you may be able to just insert your drives and access them individually over Ethernet. Alternatively, you may have to buy one initial hard drive to migrate your existing drives one at a time into the NAS, adding your drives to the NAS array as you go.
For other FireWire devices, you will have to get more creative. One approach could be to use an intermediary device, such as a powered FireWire hard drive, to bridge between Apple's underpowered adapter and your FireWire device. A working configuration is Other World Computing's $160 Mercury Elite-AL Pro 500GB hard drive, connecting via FireWire both the Mac and a bus-powered device such as Digidesign's Digi 002 FireWire audio mixer. You may already have such a device in your inventory, but getting 500GB storage in the bargain with your adapter solution makes the $160 price tag a little easier to swallow.
ExpressCard: Legacy ace in the hole
An often forgotten interface standard is ExpressCard, a PCMCIA slot interface supported on legacy Macs. You can purchase a Thunderbolt-to-ExpressCard external adapter box, such as Sonnet Technology's $199 Echo Pro ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter, and add to that a $50 Thunderbolt cable and generic $50 PCMCIA FireWire 800 adapter; you're good to go for most any non-hard-drive bus-powered FireWire device. The adapter supports full FireWire 800 performance.
One downside with this approach is the number of interconnects and the need to carry and manage multiple devices and cables. One loose connection can break the setup, making the solution workable but less than desirable.
Out of options: Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 refresh
If none of these solutions works for you, you may have to bite the bullet and upgrade your beloved FireWire external devices to those using Thunderbolt or USB 3.0.
For hard disks this isn't so painful, because drive prices have plummeted over the past few years. You'll still have the labor of transferring your data to the new drive, too.
Other devices may be harder to replace given the expense and the time and effort to work a new product into your production environment. Snapping in a new hard drive is much simpler than learning to use a new camera, audio mixer, or video production console.
It's hard to blame Apple for moving on from FireWire, given that port space and power budgets, particularly on MacBooks, are limited. Hopefully one of the above remedies will see you through making your own move to Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.
This story, "How to cope with the end of FireWire," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in Mac OS X at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.