Floppy’s days are numbered: Iomega

Iomega's new country manager, Peter Dawson, wants to stuff your machine. Actually, Dawson wants you to stuff his machines instead. "Stuff" is Iomega's name for data, and Dawson says New Zealanders are increasingly learning to get stuffed. Dawson, who hopes to open a New Zealand office soon, believes Zip drives will become the standard replacement for the floppy in the next few years.

Iomega’s new country manager, Peter Dawson, wants to stuff your machine.

Actually, Dawson wants you to stuff his machines instead. “Stuff” is Iomega’s name for data, and Dawson says New Zealanders are increasingly learning to get stuffed.

Dawson, who hopes to open a New Zealand office soon, believes Zip drives will become the standard replacement for the floppy in the next few years.

“The days of being able to transfer data via a floppy are numbered,” says Dawson.

The reason: files sizes increase beyond the venerable disk’s storage capacity. He sees a Zip drive as the obvious answer for everyday users and, with 8 million Zip drives in use around the world, the numbers seem to back him up.

For the high-end users, Iomega of course has a product, the Jaz drive. The newly released Jaz 2 offers 2Gb capacity, which is backward-compatible with the Jaz 1Gb.

But snapping at Iomega’s heels are a legion of competitors, all eager to take a piece of the back-up pie.

SyQuest has a new removable-cartridge hard drive, the SparQ, which costs $US199 and has 1Gb of storage on each cartridge.

By contrast an external Jaz 1 drive bought in New Zealand costs around $800 ex GST.

Avatar has launched the Shark 250 in the US, aimed squarely at the Zip market, and claims to hold 250Mb per disk and run four times faster than a Zip drive at only a third the size of a Zip drive.

Also in the fray are Imation, with its 120Mb SuperDisk and Nomai, a French company locked in a legal dispute with Iomega over Nomai’s Zip-compatible cartridges.

Dawson would not comment on this matter which is currently before the courts, but he isn’t too worried by the competition. Iomega is by far the largest seller of removable disk systems and has a huge lead on the competition, he says.

Zip drives are available in a number of PCs being assembled by the largest manufacturers and with the introduction of a slim-line Zip drive, Iomega is moving into the notebook market as well.

More importantly, Iomega sees its machines having a variety of uses beyond whatever the users initially buys the machine for.

The majority of Iomega customers buy drives for backing up, but a large number also use them for archiving, expanding their hard drives and transporting files. Dawson refers to this as “over-valuing” the product. Dawson describes Iomega as a “highly consumer-driven” company.

Rather than developing a product, then talking to consumers, Dawson says Iomega asks customers what it is they want, then adapt existing technology to deliver it.

As more users learn the value of saving files to a removable drive, and as the amount of stuff that needs saving increases, the battle for the back-up dollar is only just beginning.

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