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Notebooks to get new Zip drives

Iomega kicks off PC Expo with new Zip drives for notebooks and new distribution deals for high-density storage products.

NEW YORK--Iomega kicked off PC Expo this week with new Zip drives for notebooks, as well as new distribution and licensing deals that will likely lead to more types of removable high-density storage products.

Two of the deals seem aimed at capitalizing on the company's fairly strong brand name. The new line of Zip drives are designed to fit into drive bays for high-end notebooks, such as IBM's ThinkPad 770 series, the 7000 and 7800 Armadas from Compaq Computer, and high-end Satellite and Pro notebooks from Toshiba. Although announced today, the drives will not be available until the third quarter and will sell for about $199 in retail.

The surge of activity comes amid a tumultuous year for the drive manufacturer, which has been besieged by customer complaints, financial losses, increasing competition, and the departure of its CEO.

The new Zip drives are the first notebook bay drives to be branded and marketed by Iomega. Zip drives are offered by most major notebook manufacturers as a option, but most of these are manufactured by other companies and not particularly identified with a brand name.

High-density removable storage is replacing traditional disk drives. New disks hold about 100MB of storage, far more than 1.44MB used in most computers today and close to 20 times as fast as traditional disks at retrieving information.

IBM, meanwhile, said it would begin to make Iomega Zip drives available as a built-in option on its performance PC300PL business computers and the budget PC300GL series. A deal to work with IBM on the 300GL represents an expansion possibility for Iomega.

"By including Zip as an option in certain IBM commercial systems, IBM gives its enterprise customers added versatility through enhanced capacity, speed, and portability," said Crawford Del Prete, vice president of storage research at International Data Corporation.

The 300GL computers form the low-end of IBM's commercial PC segment. Several models sell for $1,000 or less and come with Celeron processors made by Intel. Until recently, Iomega's drives have mostly been available as an option in expensive high-performance PCs.

The Zip option will become available in the third quarter, according to IBM. The company did not provide prospective pricing.

In addition, the company formally announced a license agreement with NEC that will allow the Japanese electronics giant to manufacture and market Iomega's Clik portable storage drives. NEC, which will start to come out with Clik products in the second half of the year, will market the drives under their own name and act as a contract manufacturer for other electronics companies. NEC will also develop its own models of the drive.

Clik drives are similar to Zips but are designed for handheld computers, digital phones, and other portable products. Clik disks also hold only 40MB, more than current portable storage media but far less than the 100MB capacity of Zip disks.

Clik drives will sell for around $200, while disks will cost around $9.95. NEC builds Zip drives for sale under its own name as well as for other electronics companies.

"We believe that the Clik drive will be the standard for portable digital storage," said Mr. Tadanobu Furukatsu, vice president and general manager of NEC, in a prepared statement. "We are excited about manufacturing and making Clik drives available to end users and the makers of portable digital devices."