Friday, May 11, 2007

Smart USB drives 3.0?

I had completely forgotten about the move to smart USB drives that could launch your applications and desktop preferences on any computer. The once promising market seemed to have fallen asleep, until this morning when Microsoft hit the alarm button and cut a deal with SanDisk to reboot what had been the most organized effort in this area.

The bad news is anybody playing in the space will at the very least need to evaluate the duo's new hardware and software—or risk getting run over by it. The unresolved piece in my mind is whether the USB Implementers Forum or any other group will try to have any say here, spoiling Microsoft's run at a de facto standard.

The USB Flash Drive Alliance is clearly washing its hands of any standards role now that as many as five approaches to building smart drives are in use. Instead it seems to be taking a market-focused role which is appropriate given these smart devices seem to have real potential but nearly zero traction to date.

We will have to wait a year for when the new products debut to see if the latest Microsoft twist changes that reality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not only are users (myself included) not willing to pay a premium for "smart" USB drives, placing the U3 software on a USB drive lowers the market value. Two months ago at BestBuy I was able to buy a Memorex U3 1G drive for $19 while the 512M drive was selling for $25. No one I know wants this crap on their USB drive. The worst part about the U3 solution was when you plug your drive into a computer it immediately starts installing software. This is really bad if it is not your computer and you were just trying to share a file with someone.

I do agree that USB drives could have increased utility. Now that the capacities are getting so large you could keep a whole system on there and boot from that if only the BIOS would support it. I think most users like USB drives for the comfort provided by keeping all your personal data on your person. However there is always the fear that the drive could be lost or stolen. I think USB drive makers should focus on providing easy to use but secure encryption, preferably OSS based.