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Floppy business loses another

Kao will halt production of floppy disks, another indication that the storage technology is fading from the PC industry.

    Kao will halt production of floppy disks, another indication that the storage technology is fading from the PC industry.

    Often marked with Post-It notes or random scribbling, the floppy served as the preferred medium for transporting documents and applications--not to mention pirating software--during the first decade of the computer revolution. Improved storage technology and email networks, however, increasingly have absorbed the functions performed by low-megabyte disks.

    Kao, one of the leaders in the disk industry, said that it will cease production in Japan as well as Europe due to lower demand, according to a Newsbytes report. The decision effectively ends the company's participation in the market. Kao already has stopped producing disks in its U.S. manufacturing facilities.

    Most Kao floppies were sold to companies shipping software applications. Now that most PCs ship with CD-ROM drives, which hold much more information and cost less to produce, most software firms have shifted to shipping titles on compact discs instead of floppies.

    "In the short span of four years, the floppy disk has gone from being the primary medium to the secondary medium," said Ted Pine, a storage analyst for InfoTech Research. "Floppy replication is a low-volume business, and for someone like Kao, the business isn't there."

    However, floppy disks are not dead and buried yet. Although new drives using removable cartridges that hold hundreds of megabytes are growing in popularity, there still is no clear successor to the floppy as a mass medium for storage backup. Pine believes that the floppy disk still has at least a few years left as a storage option for backing up data.

    "There are 11 million [Iomega] Zip drives out there, but floppies are in the hundreds of millions," he noted. "There are a lot of horses looking to unseat it, but nothing's quite there yet."