Five years ago: Compaq's super-floppy faces tough trek

Compaq to begin shipping systems with super-floppy disk drive at the end of this month

Compaq will begin shipping systems with its 120Mb super-floppy disk drive at the end of this month, firing up a hard-to-win battle with Iomega in the hotly contested seconday-storage market.

Three models in Compaq's Deskpro 4000 business desktop line will ship with the LS-120 drive, a combination of orthodox floppy and magneto-optical technology that directly competes with Iomega's wildly successful 100Mb Zip cartridge drive. LS-120 drives will become available on other models in the Compaq range during the fourth quarter of the year.

"We see it as the next floppy standard," said James Griffiths, Compaq's product manager for commercial desktops. "Feedback has been very positive from our customers. Large customers will use it for transferring large files; smaller customers will use it as an alternative to tape for backup."

However, Compaq has a long way to go to beat Iomega. The Zip is available in internal and external versions while the LS-120 is internal-only so far. Also, the Zip has sold heavily through retail and to OEM PC vendors including Hewlett-Packard, NEC, IBM and Power Computing. In contrast, the LS-120 has no retail presence and no OEMs except for media makers. Finally, the LS-120 is almost certainly a more expensive product to manufacture.

Compaq's Griffiths insists that the LS-120 maintains USPs over the Zip. "One of the main advantages is backwards-compatibility with 1.44Mb diskettes but also we're faster and have a higher capacity," he says.

PCDN Comment: Compaq looks to be on a loser. Its speed and capacity boasts are thin gruel compared to the design excellence and market lead Iomega offers. Also, it's difficult to see PC OEMs flocking to buy from their biggest rival.

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