Flash rivals to create USB drive standard

The two biggest purveyors of flash-based storage are to team up to create a standard for a new generation of USB flash drives

M-Systems and SanDisk -- creator of the USB flash drive and the world's largest supplier of flash card storage respectively -- joined forces on Tuesday to develop and promote the next generation of USB flash drives.

The immediate goal of the companies' strategic collaboration and patent cross-licence agreement is to grow the market by creating a standardised platform that third-party developers can use to deliver flash-based applications for enterprise and consumer use, they said.

An example of going beyond simple flash-based storage is the X-Key product from KeyComputing (an M-Systems subsidiary). This not only provides up to 256MB of storage, but also integrates an embedded ARM processor; relational database; SSL engine; Java application server; and security and encryption applications. These elements provide a secure link to an Exchange server from any PC with a USB port, allowing users to carry their Outlook data with them, synchronising it with Exchange when Internet access is available.

Third parties such as Iomega have used M-Systems' Smart DiskOnKey technology to supply other, simpler, applications, but up to now these have had to be custom-written for each USB drive design. Under the proposed M-Systems/SanDisk standard, which is expected to be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in January next year, it should be much more straightforward for developers to create new flash-drive-based applications.

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