I've got one of these (128 MB). It's really neat and handy! Jerry -------------------------------- http://www.forbes.com/2004/01/23/cx_ah_0123tentech.html Key Chain Drives Take Off Arik Hesseldahl, 01.23.04, 9:42 AM ET NEW YORK - The concept of the key chain drive has taken off like a pocket-sized rocket. The little devices, usually a dense collection of flash memory chips mated with a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection, have more or less supplanted the floppy disc as the portable data storage medium of choice in the last year or so. We first noticed what then was an emerging product trend way back in 2001 (see "Ten O'Clock Tech: Key Chain Computing"), when a paltry 64 megabytes cost $200. Thankfully, technology has improved to the point where for the same price you can get twice as much capacity for only about a third as much money. That may have something to do with the fact that flash memory-based key chain drives have surged to a nearly $600 million business this year, according to analyst Jim Handy at Semico Research in Scottsdale, Ariz. He expects sales to reach $1.6 billion this year and break the $3 billion barrier next year. We've recently been inundated with a handful or two of product samples from different companies seeking to make a splash by making their key chain drives stand out from the competition. Generally, most we've tried work as advertised, though some are better than others. Two recent entrants from Iomega (nyse: IOM - news - people ) are the 512-MB Mini Drive and the 128-MB Micro Mini Drive. Iomega is the company that launched the 100-MB Zip Drive in the 1990s, which made high-capacity portable storage popular. The 512-MB Mini Drive ($200) is about what you'd expect from a key chain drive. It's about the size of a man's thumb (they are sometimes called "thumb drives," after all) and uses a fast USB 2.0 connection. That makes it awfully handy for taking large files with you on short notice. We loaded a 27-megabyte videoclip, the trailer for The Return of the King, onto the drive in about five seconds. Iomega also supports its active disk technology on the drive, which lets you run software like Open Office, an open source alternative to Microsoft's (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) office software, directly from the drive. By contrast, the 128-MB Micro Mini Drive ($70) is much cuter but smaller than the larger Mini. This one is about half the size of a man's thumb and comes with an attachable chain that can be worn around the neck--its size does make it easy to lose. It connects to the PC using the older USB 1.1 standard, so it loads data much more slowly. It took about 30 seconds to copy that Return of the King trailer. Another brand of key chain drive we've come to appreciate is the DiskOnKey from M-Systems (nasdaq: FLSH - news - people ). Many companies sell drives that are actually manufactured by M-Systems and then re-branded, and it holds a lot of patents on the technology and spends a good deal of effort paying lawyers to defend those patents from numerous knock-offs. We recently tried a 256-MB DiskOnKey Classic with a USB 2.0 connection. Installed onboard was a software package called Xkey, which gives access to a Microsoft Outlook account from any computer it's plugged into. With less than a minute's work at configuration, the program on the drive gives access to the Outlook in-box, contacts and calendar. When new mail arrived, a little message announcing it appeared in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Several DiskOnKey models are available in different capacities as high as 1 gigabyte. The company sells them primarily through partners like IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ), but it also has an online store. Prices on DiskOnKey Classic range from $100 for a 128-MB unit to $549 for a 1-GB model. Another drive we tried was the MPIO HS100 from South Korea's DigitalWay. Known mostly as a brand of digital music player, the $200 MPIO contains a 1.5-gigabyte hard drive rather than the conventional flash memory used by most key chain drives. But as with other key chain drives, it connects directly to a USB port. As with the Iomega drives, Windows XP had no difficulty recognizing the device once it's plugged in. In terms of speed, it fell in between the Mini and Micro Mini, copying that 27-MB videoclip in about ten seconds. But it also left a good deal of room to spare, so we used it to archive two years' worth of e-mail from Microsoft Outlook. It took a good half-hour or so, but that had more to do with the Outlook's archive function than the drive's performance. Once we got the drive home, we copied the archive directly to the hard drive on a home computer in about four minutes. The MPIO is much bigger than the Iomega units, about the size of two Mini Drives. The reason for the larger size is an internal hard drive from a Colorado-based company called Cornice, whose drives are starting to show up in music players and small data-storage devices of every stripe. It recently announced that it has developed a drive that holds 2 gigabytes in a drive that's not much bigger than half a standard business card. It seems these little drives are going to continue to creep into our lives in increasing numbers, and with more features. It's fairly common to see these drives that double as MP3 music players. The Nomad MuVo line from Creative Labs (nasdaq: CREAF - news - people ) comes to mind. We're also starting to hear about drives that include voice recorders and radio tuners as well. That's a lot of technology to fit onto a key chain.
Forbes.com Key Chain Drives Take Off.url
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