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SanDisk, M-Systems Team to Standardize Future USB Drives

New York – M-Systems and SanDisk announced a strategic collaboration and patent cross-license agreement to jointly develop a new standard for USB flash drives.

The partnership is aimed at creating a set of standards for the manufacturing of USB flash drives that would offer vendors and the development community a common platform from which they could develop unique software applications for, said Wes Brewer, SanDisk’s VP, consumer products.

“We’re looking to do what Palm did with their developer’s forum,” Brewer said.

According to Brewer, one of the most urgent priorities driving the partnership is the need to bring uniformity to the development of security software embedded in the drives to satisfy business users who store sensitive data on the portable drives. Many USB drive manufacturers offer proprietary pass-word protection and data encryption software on their units that could impair the drives interoperability, Brewer said.

“Businesses have a concern about viruses getting into their networks through the drives as well,” Brewer said.

He added that it was the intention of both companies to create a bedrock platform of standards which would allow software developers to create new and unique applications for the drives, beyond just data storage and security, and thereby drive continued growth in the category.

“We’re going to harness the USB drive and take it to the next level,” Brewer said.

He said that the cost to both the manufacturer and end user would be “minimal” if the standards were adopted. M-Systems is a major OEM of USB flash drives, while SanDisk prefers to sell directly under its own brand.

The first drives based on the new standards will be announced at CES during a joint M-Systems/SanDisk press conference and be ready to ship in the first quarter of 2005, Brewer said.

Once the new standard is established, the two companies intend to license it to foster industry-wide adoption.

“This collaboration signals the birth of the next generation of USB flash drive technology,” said Dov Moran, president, CEO of M-Systems.