First, to update you on the startling news from two weeks ago, as PC Dealer went to press, Bill Gates was still mulling the problem that I emailed to him.
How is he going to solve Microsoft's two-digit product naming convention? It appears Gates not only thought about the problem himself but, stumped, passed it on to others in his organisation to deal with.
Discussions proceeded at the highest level for more than a week before Microsoft mailed me back to admit that they still had no idea what to do. I promise I will not let the matter rest there. I will take up this same problem with Lou Gerstner from Lotus next time he pops into my local for his customary steak-and-kidney pie and pint of RamRod, providing I can get him away from the garrulous Ellison in the public bar.
But onto more pressing matters. This week our thoughts turn to superfloppies.
Sony revealed the HiFD drive at Comdex, a drive that has two striking characteristics: it uses a 200Mb floppy diskette; and as a third, mutually incompatible superfloppy format, it is exactly what the world needs right now. To recap for those of you not lucky enough to be product columnists, we have three contenders here.
The Zip Drive is popular, cheap, neatly packaged and fast. It is proven technology with an amusing name and a colourful box you can leave in your shop window. It is, however, incompatible with ordinary floppy drives, because apart from any tedious technical inconsistencies, the diskettes would get stuck if you tried to jam them into a floppy disk drive.
The Imation 120Mb SuperDisk is backward-compatible with the floppy, cheap and slower. It also has the problem that it has been knocking around for so long as the LS-120 that when you say SuperDisk, no one knows what you mean. Every now and then SuperDisk manufacturers tell you how many they are making, which is lots.
Where are they all? Not round my manor, I can tell you. The advantage - not having to have both this drive and a floppy drive would undoubtedly please PC minimalists, if there were any.
Finally, the HiFD is the biggest drive, it is backwards-compatible, it reads data faster than the others (3.6Mbps to a Zip's 1.4Mbps and SuperDisk's sad 290Kbps) and it's new. But it's not in the shops yet. That's how new it is.
My optimistic response: 'This is a start-to-finish opportunity for resellers to carve a niche for themselves in the ever-expanding superfloppy arena.
As the upgrade sector is not yet saturated, margins may be a little higher and there's plenty of opportunity in emerging vertical markets for value-add. It's a win-win situation.'
The realistic response: 'HiFD would be great.
But I've got a Zip.' And that, as far as I can see, is all you need to know.
Tim Phillips is a freelance IT journalist.
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