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Interview: Iomega's Oest plots death of Travan

As Iomega sets out to slay the Travan standard with a very aggressively priced 2Gb version of its Ditto drive, PCDN spoke to Ditto European product manager, Caroline Oest.
Written by Martin Veitch, Contributor

PCDN: What was the genesis of the 2Gb Ditto?

There were so many concerns about the Travan cartridge pricing. We did an immense amount of market research asking people what they wanted form tape drives. What they told us was that the capacity had to match the hard drive: that's 1.2Gb now and will be 2Gb in Q1 1997. The user who spends £2,000 is prepared to spend another 10 per cent on backup. If we can make the price five per cent it will become a no-brainer. Our long term aim is to get a street price of $99. The other thing is ease of use. They don't want to open the box so there has to be an external connection option, and they want to be able to back up with a single click on an icon.

What about Internet downloads? That seems to be being pushed as a key driver.

With the Internet becoming more and more important, users are looking at things like tape drives. But it has to be cheap and easy and nobody is really offering a product like that. To make a Travan TR-4 drive you need expensive things like SCSI, and a complex head and filter mechanism, and you lose the mass market. We're very strong on the mass market and we really felt we had to leave the Travan path.

You had no qualms about leaving such a broadly accepted standard as Travan?

We wanted to offer higher performance for an equal or better price. This is 40-50 per cent cheaper than similar products and reads all previous tapes. Gateway 2000 is buying hundreds of Ditto 3200s and Barclay has 10,000 Ditto drives with all sorts of different versions. As long as they can read their old tapes they don't care. They just want the best capacity at the best price.

Have you tried to create a new standard?

To be honest, until today we had to be a bit quiet. We're still an active committee member for Travan. We're trying to propose it as a QIC standard but it is isn't a QIC standard today. We're very compatible though. In October, we'll ship a Windows NT driver and we're working on a Unix driver. We're more than ready to offer new technology to other vendors. If the idea is right, it will take off. Look at Travan; the uptake was instant.

What about logistics? Your problems in keeping up with supply and support on the Zip were well documented.

We're starting shipping in the next few days. Sony and ourselves have been making drives and cartridges for six to eight weeks so we've got plenty of supply. We know we made mistakes. It's a case of once-bitten, twice shy.

Is your plan to kill off Travan? Can't they cut prices in response to your pricing?

I don't want to say something bad about Travan [but] I must say yes, that's the end of Travan. Maybe they can cut prices but I don't believe they can... It's a very expensive head needed for Travan, that's one of the major problems for 3M, but we use a cheaper head and the deal with Sony helped us get a wonderful price. Why would anybody want Travan in that situation?

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