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Iomega charters new storage course

With non-PC gadgets all the rage at this year's Comdex trade show, peripheral maker Iomega is preparing for the post-PC era.

With non-PC gadgets all the rage at this year's Comdex trade show, peripheral maker Iomega is preparing for the post-PC era.

Iomega today announced plans to offer its removable storage products for new markets, including MP3 music storage and digital imaging.

The move comes as free-falling prices force storage makers to expand beyond the PC to survive. Unlike some competitors, which have taken more of a retail sales approach, Iomega is doing with other devices what it did with PCs: forge partnerships that get its removable storage technology inside the box.

One partner, Photo Ditto, uses Iomega's Zip technology in digital imaging workstations it has placed in Eckerd Drugs and Meijer retail chains nationwide. The workstation kiosks provide a wide range of photo processing services, storing data on Zip disks.

Zip, a high-capacity floppy holding either 100 MB or 250 MB of data, is one of several possible successors to the typical 1.44-MB floppy disk. But unlike competing technology from Imation and Sony, Zip is not backward compatible with the traditional floppy.

Iomega also is positioning its Click removable storage device for digital music players. The devices stores up to 40 MB of data and until now had been targeted more toward mobile PC users. Click fits into a notebook's PC card slot for quick backups or data transfer to another portable.

The Roy, Utah-based storage maker claims one Click disk holds about 40 minutes of digital music.

But Iomega is moving into a crowded market, with entrenched adoption of flash memory and where consumer electronics giant Sony is pushing its competing Memory Stick technology.

Sony yesterday at Comdex announced about 25 companies had licensed Memory Stick for use in electronics devices, including digital music players. Sony also showed off a Memory Stick-based digital music Walkman and recorder, the latter capable of 131 minutes on a 16-MB Memory Stick.

Iomega has also lined up an impressive list of other non-PC partners.

• Sega agreed to offer Zip built into its Dreamcast gaming system, although no product is yet available.

• Roland, a music instrument maker, offers Zip built into two models for mixing digital music.

• Zip storage comes built into the Lexmark Photo Jetprinter 5770 and Microtek Imagedeck scanner.

• Click is available for storing digital content in a MP3 player from Varo Vision and digital camera from Agfa.

With the addional focus on new non-PC devices, Iomega stresses that it is not abandoning its core PC products. The company today at Comdex announced a USB version of Click and yesterday a USB version of the ZipCD.

Iomega in August introduced ZipCD, a CD rewritable drive that marked its first move away from proprietary storage technologies.

Today at Comdex, Iomega added Zip support for IEEE1394, or FireWire, the high-speed connection standard developed by Apple. FireWire transfers data up to 400 mbps compared to about 12 mbps for USB.

Iomega will sell an add-on connector that will allow 250-MB USB Zip drives to connect to a FireWire port. The technology supports PCs running Windows 98 Second Edition or Windows 2000 and Macs running MacOS 8.51 or later.

But Iomega already has competition in the space. VST Technologies has been selling a native FireWire 250-MB Zip for about six months.

Iomega's post-PC push comes as the company faces slower adoption than expected of its core Zip technology and increasing pricing pressure.

Computer manufacturers shipped 100 million floppy drives in 1998 versus 14.7 million high-capacity models, according to Disk Trend. The market researcher expects the number of standard floppy drives to remain level for at least two more years with an increase to 29 million high-capacity drives in 2001.

Iomega to date has sold 30 million Zip drives and as many as 180 million Zip disks.