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Technology / AI and automation

IOMEGA’S TINY 40MB FLOPPY SEEKING LITTLE HOMES

Hoping to capitalize on the success of its popular removable Zip drives Iomega Corp has finally revealed its 1.8 form factor Clik floppy drive for use in handhelds, digital cameras and other portable digital devices, although it will not be available in any form until the second half of next year. The $9.95, re- writable, rotating magnetic floppy disk is encased in a stainless steel jacket and can store 40Mb data – equivalent to 40 high- quality digital photographs or 25 ten-page PowerPoint documents – twice the capacity of the prototype n*hand technology first shown at Comdex last year (CI No 3,122). Clik disks plug in to $200 Walkman-size drives which will store images and files downloaded from portable devices equipped with Clik interfaces over serial or infrared connections. Files can be transferred on to PCs for processing. The battery-powered drives will ship with a docking station that can also serve as a power attachment. Iomega’s hoping vendors will ultimately incorporate low-power, 6.5mm thick, credit-card size OEM Clik drives into portable devices such as digital cameras. What it needs now is design wins. Although HP, DEC, Kodak, Hitachi and InFocus Systems all stood up in support of Clik, none have yet committed to building devices incorporating the drives which are expected to add around $100 to the retail price of devices such as digital cameras which are in any case still boutique items as far as the high-street consumer is concerned. With the exception of Sony’s digital cameras, which already use a form of floppy disk, most currently use the flash memory cards which Iomega hopes to displace or work alongside in next-generation devices that are eighteen months or so away. Until vendors settle their future flash/floppy storage strategies, Iomega’s likely to remain circumspect about its own packaging and sales model lest it tread on their toes. Industry- watchers expect Clik to be used in professional devices which have more available power than consumer products and require the faster write performance that Clik offers over flash memory; in other words in devices when the price tag is not an issue.

Stiff competition

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd and Citizen Watch Co have already signed to manufacture and sell Clik drives. Iomega’s leery of describing how Clik’s storage capacity will improve but it uses the same technologies, including chipsets and read/write heads, in its Zip drives which now offer 200Mb removable storage for laptop PCs, and improvements in storage density should therefore go hand in hand across the products. The drives will be too large to fit into PCMCIA slots and will instead be accommodated on Type-III PC-Card devices like the one CNF Inc already plans to offer. In addition to digital cameras, Iomega hopes to attract hand held electronic game and mobile phone manufacturers to Clik. It will face stiff competition in all of these markets from vendors of solid state flash memory storage such as Sandisk Corp and Intel Corp. Ironically Matsushita was one of the companies that helped Sandisk develop its 80Mb flash chip which it says will double the density of its CompactFlash memory cards which are vying for the digital image storage market (CI No 3,280). Iomega’s got Flash memory maker Atmel Corp integrating the Clik interface onto integrated circuits for device builders. Iomega dismisses Flash memory storage as prohibitively expensive for mass market devices; it costs $6 per megabyte of storage and $50 to $100 per device, however costs are falling, flash memory is re-usable and Sandisk now has 106 design wins versus Clik’s zero. Iomega claims that for devices operating more than 4Mb of memory it will be suitable to use flash and Clik alongside each other. The only other technology which could leave Clik on the starting grid would be the development of low-power, low-cost hard disks, which have not yet appeared on the industry’s radar screen. Roy, Utah-based Iomega wouldn’t say what kind of revenue stream it expects from the product but has created a mobile storage division in San Diego, California.

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CBR Staff Writer

CBR Online legacy content.