Comdex: SyQuest SparQ stalks Zip drive

SyQuest is getting ready to step back into the ring with Iomega, showing off a new drive positioned as a killer of its arch-rival's Zip.

SyQuest's SparQ (pronounced 'spark') with its book-sized case, protruding rubber-feet and cartridge viewing window, even looks a lot like the Zip except that it follows Henry Ford's dictum by only being available in black. The cartridges also look a lot like Zip disks. Inside, however, the SparQ is completely different, being based on single-platter, dual-head Winchester drive technology. That explains the two ways it scores over Zip: capacity and performance.

The SparQ drive delivers 1Gb per cartridge compared to the Zip's 100Mb capacity; SyQuest said it expects UK availability in February through retail stores at about £150 for the drive and £25 per cartridge, offering a dramatic bettering of Zip's bang for buck. At first, the SparQ will only be available in parallel port and internal IDE versions. The firm hopes to license manufacturing of drives and cartridges to third-parties to ensure wide availability of access.

Complementing the SparQ at the high-end of the market, SyQuest also showed the 4.7Gb Quest drive which will be available in SCSI and parallel port versions at $599 for the drive and $199 for cartridges. UK pricing and availability details will follow shortly.

Steve Jamieson, VP of sales in Europe, said the SparQ will be at the heart of a SyQuest renaissance after recent dog days.

"SyQuest has had problems, financial and otherwise but we've got a new management team, about £175 million in investment that has allowed us to come up with the R&D to build innovative new products. SparQ is at the centre of that and we think 100Mb was fine two years ago but 1Gb is the next rung on the ladder. We've even got a new logo and now we've really got to let the market know we're back."

Jamieson added that SyQuest's new marketing tag will be 'Share Your Genius', a clear piece of one-upmanship on Iomega's constant references to sharing 'your stuff'. Also, like Iomega, SyQuest will focus heavily on the retail channel and has already sewn up a UK distribution deal with PC World.

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