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Ultrasmall storage device debuts

Dubbed OROM, the technology holds up to 128MB of information in a form factor about the size of a business card.

Ioptics introduced a new storage technology today designed for use in handheld and portable computers.

Dubbed OROM, the patented technology holds up to 128MB of

Ioptics Orom storage device
The Orom storage device from Ioptics
information on a data card around the size of a business card, according to the company.

OROM is designed for handheld devices running Microsoft's Windows CE operating system (OS), Sun Microsystems' Java OS, and notebook computers.

Storage devices like CD-ROMs work with one laser reading data one bit at a time, track by track, on a rotating disk. OROM reads data that is prerecorded on two-dimensional cells using an array of light sources, with one light beam assigned to each cell of data and then converting that into digital data.

The total time accessing data using OROM technology is 10 milliseconds, equivalent to the data access time of a hard drive, and 10 times faster than CD-ROMs, according to Ioptics.

"If the company can make the product and Ioptics can produce at a low cost, it has wonderful applications because power consumption is so low," said Dr. Gerry Purdy, president of Mobile Insights.

Ioptics will face a number of competitors in this market that have the advantage of being able to store data on the fly. Hard disk drive technologies will continue to decrease in size to the point where handhelds might use them--already, PC Card hard disk drives are available which store over 300MB of data. However, the drives also cost in the area of $400, which is twice the projected cost of the Ioptics drives.

Iomega is expected to target the handheld device market as well with its Clik drive, but Purdy said the Click drive is currently a tad too large to fit well into handheld devices.

The 128MB data cards are expected to cost between $2 to $3, a very low price. By comparison, the price of a 4MB flash memory card, now often used in digital cameras, runs from $50 to over $100.

Ioptics' reader will sell for approximately $200. Availability is expected by mid-1999.