U3 Platform Pulls Ahead In Race To Rule Smart USB Flash Drive Market - InformationWeek
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U3 Platform Pulls Ahead In Race To Rule Smart USB Flash Drive Market

U3 LLC has scored a minor coup in the race to develop the next-generation storage media, announcing Monday (March 21) it would migrate its hardware and software platform to Kingston Technology, Memorex, and Verbatim, as it seeks to promote the Smart USB Flash drive platform as an industry standard.

MANHASSET, N.Y. — U3 LLC has scored a minor coup in the race to develop the next-generation storage media, announcing Monday (March 21) it would migrate its hardware and software platform to Kingston Technology, Memorex, and Verbatim, as it seeks to promote its Smart USB Flash drive spec as an industry standard.

Kingston Technology Co. Inc. (Fountain Valley, Calif.) , Verbatim Corp. (Charlotte, N.C.), and Memorex Products Inc. (Cerritos, Calif.), all well-known suppliers of storage, made separate announcements stating they would incorporate U3's platform into next-generation storage drives designated DataTraveler, TravelDrive, and Store n'Go respectively. The first products are expected by the Fall, said Andrea Butter, vice president of marketing for U3, in an interview with EE Times.

The U3 platform may have pulled a step ahead of a competing standard, Drive Alliance, to gain control of the Smart USB Flash drive market. The Drive Alliance spec, announced last December, is supported by companies such as Lexar Media Inc. (Fremont, Calif.) and Samsung.

"We know this is a very significant step for mobile computing," said Butter. "We believe the U3 platform is on its way to becoming a defacto standard."

U3 was created as a joint venture by SanDisk Corp. and M-Systems, both of Sunnyvale, Calif., in January to create a hardware and software platform that would a USB drive to store not only data, but also a user's PC settings and be able to launch applications from any PC desktop.

Market researchers estimate shipments of USB Flash drives to exceed 50 million.

Though it's too early to tell who win the battle for the Smart USB Flash drive market, Butter contends U3 now has the edge because SanDisk and M-Systems have over 40 percent of the storage media market. She added that a number of software developers are now developing applications.

One possible advantage for the Drive Alliance spec, though, is that no royalties are being charged for using the spec. By contrast, U3 will charge USB drive makers royalties but not software or host computer makers.

The U3 platform includes three components. The U3 Launchpad is a user-friendly graphical user interface used by both developers and end-users to access and run applications. The U3 software developer kit includes sample code, a standard set of application programming interfaces (APIs), and thorough documentation. The U3 Web Portal is where developers can publish U3-certified applications for purchase and download.

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