The very nature of the technology industry means that it continues to change the way people do things — both in a personal and professional capacity — and some products become so pervasive that we are often left wondering what we did before they were invented.
Mobile phones and PCs are the most obvious examples of product categories that fit this description. It’s not really so long ago that workers out on the road would have to stop at a phone box when needing to report back to the boss, but the idea of somebody doing that today has become an alien concept with the ever expanding range of mobile communication devices available.
Only last week, a driver was trapped on the roof of his car by floods in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. He used his mobile phone to call for help and was rescued by an emergency services team in a helicopter. It isn’t a nice thought, but he would almost certainly have been swept to his death if he had found himself in the same situation 20 years ago.
And anybody working in an office environment has seen the rapid drop in productivity when a server goes down and nobody has access to the Internet or their email inboxes. In its short history, the Web has become an integral part of our daily lives that we use to pay bills, conduct research or ask a friend what they are doing after work.
Just now, there is a growing noise in the industry about portable storage devices. So much so, in fact, that I am starting to wonder if this might be the next product set to reach the dizzy heights of indispensability. I have only had one in my pocket since Christmas, which I carry as a convenient way of transferring information from my office PC to my notebook at home, but it has already become ingrained as a part of my routine.
And, as is so often the case, the technology is growing (in capacity rather than physical size) at an incredible rate. Less than five years ago, 8MB flash cards were considered throwaway items and added little value to a sale. But flash memory USB drives are now widely available with 1GB of capacity — and the $500 price tags that come with them mean there are serious opportunities for resellers to bundle them with all manner of sales.
Adelaide-based memory manufacturer and distributor, Legend, this week attributed higher than expected annual profits to a massive increase in demand for memory-based consumer products.
And even Queensland-based publisher and distributor, Manaccom, which has spent 18 years focusing solely on software products, has decided to have a nibble at the USB space. It has launched a 128MB drive predominantly because of bundling opportunities with its software titles. When a company with a successful software business turns its attention to hardware almost two decades after going into business, it suggests something significant is happening.
Comsol has begun shipping 2.2GB micro-drives to these shores and other vendors, including GS Magicstor, are offering models with a whopping 4.4GB of storage that can fit easily in a pocket. The portable storage battle between higher capacity micro-drives and more durable flash products is going to be interesting to watch during the next few years. But whatever the format, a rapidly growing number of consumers and business people are prepared to pay significant sums for flexible ways of managing images and information.
Brian Corrigan is Editor of ARN. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org