SanDisk effectively announced plans today to kill off the U3 smart flash drive platform as they unveiled a new relationship with Microsoft which will "expand on and replace" the U3 experience with one developed by the computer software giant. The new offering is expected to be commercially available starting in the second half of 2008.
SanDisk, which acquired the company behind the U3 platform from its partners in November of last year, did not say why they were switching over to a Microsoft-driven experience. They instead focused on plans to incorporate the combined software and hardware solution on removable flash memory cards and SanDisk CruzerUSB flash drives.
Microsoft is now moving into the early stages of discussions with third-party hardware vendors interested in licensing the new software offering. A new entity will be created to license the new platform, with revenues to be shared by the two companies.
Microsoft and SanDisk stressed they will be working with software developers to migrate existing U3 applications to run on the new offering. This new smart flash drive platform, added the two companies, will let users "carry their personal computing environment – including a customized and familiar user interface, applications and data – on a flash storage device such as a USB flash drive or flash memory card. This computing environment will be accessible on Windows XP and Windows Vista-based computers with a USB port or flash card reader. Users will be free to work on public or shared computers without fear of leaving personal information behind, and with confidence that their personal information will be encrypted, kept safer from malware, and otherwise protected through security provisions enabled by TrustedFlash technology. "
“SanDisk and U3 forged the category of smart USB devices, elevating simple flash storage to a whole new level of customer benefit,” said Will Poole, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Market Expansion Group, in a statement. “We are excited to work with SanDisk on this next-generation experience, which will allow hardware manufacturers to better differentiate their products and provide an even richer software and services experience for customers.”
“The U3 platform was established with the vision of giving customers a consistent and portable computing experience. The existing 20,000 U3 software developers that joined us show the potential for smart flash memory devices,” added Yoram Cedar, executive vice president of the mobile business unit and corporate engineering at SanDisk. “We expect this relationship with Microsoft will raise the overall experience for consumers given Microsoft’s unique software expertise, and grow the momentum given the large community of 3rd party companies capable of utilizing Microsoft’s technologies.”