Top-tier computer makers such as Dell Computer Corp. and IBM ship thousands of flash memory keys with their consumer PCs, but smaller companies are planning new features to make the small storage devices more attractive to enterprises.
Customers can use the USB (Universal Serial Bus) devices—which are about the size of an index finger and can attach to a key chain—to carry data and applications off-site without needing to bring a laptop. The weather-resistant memory keys, which dwarf the capacity of floppy disks and soon will include advanced security and wireless access, can be plugged in to a computer to display data and run applications.
TrekStor USA Inc., a division of Trek 2000 International Ltd., in San Ramon, Calif., plans to release a version of its ThumbDrive device with 512MB of capacity by January and another with Bluetooth connectivity within a year, said the divisions president, Elvin Low.
JMTek LLC, of Seattle, already has 512MB and 1GB keys in its USBDrive family. Late this year or early next year, JMTek will launch a 2GB key, said Executive Director Ahmad Aqqad. The company also is working on a Bluetooth prototype and a key with a built-in Secure Digital slot for synchronizing data from a personal digital assistant, Aqqad said.
M-Systems Inc., whose DiskOnKey product has the most big-name partners and resellers—including Apple Computer Inc., Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co., Fuji Photo Film USA Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.—is working on features that will enable firmware updates to the device through a PCs Web browser, according to spokesman Blaine Phelps, in Newark, Calif.
Because the data goes through a PC but never resides there, that same technology could be customized with M-Systems new software developers kit and used for features ranging from music and content delivery at a kiosk to global sales presentation distributions without a laptop.