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ORB circles portable storage

ORB circles portable storage

Castlewood Systems is looking to "reignite the magnetic media era" in Australia with the release of a 5.7GB ORB hard disk drive later this month.

The company launched its 2.2GB drive worldwide last year. It functions in the same way as a hard drive, but provides removable, portable storage. However, the product has failed to have the intended impact on the Australian marketplace. Now the 2.2GB ORB is making a comeback, in conjunction with Castlewood's new distribution model and recently established technical support centre.

"The key to the drive is its magneto resistive (MR) technology," said Castlewood regional manager Meyer Mussry. "That is what makes the product revolutionary. It is capable of delivering better speed and capacity than a Jaz drive for the price of a Zip."

The benefit of MR is tiny data drive heads, which are lighter and a lot more sensitive. Mussry blames past lacklustre performance on distribution teething problems.

"We had a bit of a false start because we appointed a startup distributor which didn't have the strength needed to carry, market and service the product."

To add to the company's woes, the device experienced problems in the field, leading to a halt in production. But it has now appointed Chips as master distributor across the country with sub-distribution hubs for each state to service smaller resellers. It is currently looking for a QLD sub-distributor.

In August, the company also set up a tech support and return authorisation facility in Australia. "It needed to be done," Mussry said philosophically.

Castlewood will also ship a 5.7GB firewire drive from January. Mussry claims the products will quickly catch on across market segments, creating sell-on opportunities for the channel with margins of between 20 and 26 units.

"If someone walks in and wants to buy a Zip drive because a friend has one it is unlikely there will be any follow-on sales for that reseller. But if it is an ORB drive, those sales are more likely because it is an innovative product."

He dismisses claims the product will take a long time to establish itself against the likes of Iomega.

"That [acceptance] will happen a lot faster than people imagine because of the speed of the ORB and because it is the only removable media disk product that is fast enough to handle full motion video without dropping frames."

The new disks will be downwardly compatible with the 2.2GB offering. The ORB is beginning to attract interest from consumer electronics manufacturers looking and the MP3 player and digital video market. It will also be useful for storing footage from CCTV surveillance, Mussry said.

The ORB is rewritable and bootable, so it can also be used as a backup system. Entry price for the IDE drive will be around the $389 mark, and disks retail at around $69 for 2.2GB and $99 for $5.7GB. Within the year Castlewood hopes to be competitive with rewritable CDs on a cost basis and the device is already far more cost effective than other offerings, according to Mussry.

"Retail will be a big area, but we will also target the corporate sector, particularly for the 5.7GB drives."


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