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Thumb drives launch apps, media players

Posted: 11 Jan 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Rick Merritt? thumb drive? Lexar Media? Ceedo Technologies?

In the war of the thumb drives, Lexar Media Inc. is teaming with Israeli software developer Ceedo Technologies Ltd to deliver a version of its USB flash drives that can store and launch applications and media players. It is due to reach the market in April.

In demonstrations at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, prototype versions of Lexar's JumpDrives used the software to launch a Google photo viewer, a WinAmp MP3 player and a PowerPoint presentation viewer.

The software, PowerToGo, lets most existing Windows applications run unmodified from the flash drives, Lexar said. The goal is to let users carry their PC environments, including browser settings and instant-messenger clients, in a tiny thumb drive.

Ceedo will provide its software, at a cost to be negotiated, to other OEMs that want to make the smart drives, said Steffen Hellmold, general manager for the USB flash drive and OEM products unit at Lexar. The software will be developed as an open standard, and the Lexar products will be compatible with "most consumer and electronic mobile devices," according to a company statement.

The move is a competitive blow to the U3 Alliance, formed in 2004 by USB flash drive makers M-Systems and Sandisk. U3 proponents launched their version of smart USB flash drives last September. At least four thumb drive makers started shipping the U3 drives in October using at least seven applications.

The U3 Web site lists more than 75 applications available or coming for the drives. However, the U3 approach requires that Windows applications be modified for the thumb drives.

"Unlike some competing solutions that are using proprietary solutions requiring software developers to maintain a separate code base for this platform, our solution will empower customers to use most of their Windows standard applications on the go," said Lexar's Hellmold.

Lexar formed the USB Flash Drive Alliance in 2003 to set technical standards for the drives. Members include Microsoft, Samsung and about a dozen small flash drive makers. Microsoft is not in the U3 Alliance.

Market watcher Dataquest projects that more than half the estimated 167 million USB flash drives that ship in 2010 will be smart devices that can launch applications.

Separately, Lexar has teamed up with E Ink Corp. to launch its JumpDrive Mercury, a USB flash drive with a tiny display from E Ink that shows how much storage is being used by the 1GB and 2GB drives.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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