Microsoft, SanDisk to Replace U3 Drives

May 12, 2007

Microsoft and SanDisk on Friday announced a technology-sharing agreement that will produce a replacement for SanDisk's U3 line of USB smart drives by the second half of next year.

Microsoft and SanDisk on Friday announced a technology-sharing agreement that will produce a replacement for SanDisk's U3 line of USB smart drives by the second half of next year.

Microsoft and SanDisk will work together to create new software and hardware offerings that will be incorporated onto removable flash memory cards and SanDisk's Cruzer USB flash drives.

The new technology will be commercially available during the second half of 2008, the companies said.

SanDisk's U3 devices plug into a computer's USB drive and can currently carry data and Windows software applications like personalized e-mail and web browsers. The revamped product will expand upon this, allowing users to travel with their personalized computing environment, including a customized interface, applications and data, according to the companies.

"This is really more about taking applications and data and - a - customized user interface with you from computer to computer," said Mike Langberg, a spokesman for SanDisk. "I don't know exactly what it's going to look like, - but - our whole computing experience would go with you in your pocket. When you plug this flash drive or flash card into a new computer, up would pop your user interface, all your familiar icons and documents."

The offering will be accessible on Windows XP- and Vista-based computers with a USB port or flash card reader. Personal information will be encrypted to ensure security when working on public or shared computers, the companies said.

A separate entity will be created to handle intellectual property and licensing issues for whatever Microsoft and SanDisk might jointly produce. The current U3 technology was developed by U3 LLC, a joint venture of SanDisk and m-systems, and became available in 2005. SanDisk acquired m-systems in November 2006, and U3 LLC today is a wholly owned subsidiary of SanDisk. The Microsoft is now looking for third-party vendors interested in licensing the new software, the company said.

The new products "will allow hardware manufacturers to better differentiate their products," Will Poole, corporate vice president of Microsoft's market expansion group, said in a statement.

The intent is to give "customers a consistent and portable computing experience," said Yoram Cedar, executive vice president the mobile business unit and corporate engineering at SanDisk.

SanDisk will continue to support U3 and the product until the Microsoft-SanDisk offering is made available next year, the companies said.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 8:51 AM PDT with comments from SanDisk's Langberg.

Copyright 2007 by Ziff Davis Media, Distributed by United Press International

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