Dell drops floppy drives in new PCs

Dell drops floppy drives in new PCs

It's time to say goodbye to the floppy drive.

We've all heard that before, but this time Dell Computer means it. Later this month, the company will stop listing the floppy drive as a default entry on its top-end consumer desktop, the Dimension 8250. To get one, you'll have to ask for it.

"We want to introduce them [customers] to the alternatives and let them choose," manager for Dimension product marketing, Shannon Baxley, said. Dell thinks that most customers, forced to choose, will go with something more useful - specifically, thumb drives.

Alongside its floppy drive option, the company plans to offer at least two Dell-branded thumb drives including one carrying the same price as a floppy drive. Thumb drives plug into a standard USB port, use flash memory, offer faster transfer speeds, and have greater capacity than a floppy disk.

Dell hasn't set the pricing on its floppy drive option yet and Baxley won't estimate late-February pricing for the company's 16MB or 64MB thumb drives. Currently, Dell sells the 16MB thumb drive for $US17 and the 64MB model for $US30.

The floppy drive has been functionally obsolete for some time; most of the files people share are simply too large to fit on its meagre 1.44MB capacity.

"Most people can't recall the last time they used their floppy," senior manager for Dimension product planning, John New, said. "Customers were telling us they don't use it."

Most people are, however, afraid not to have one.

"It's mostly just a comfort factor," New said. "They think, 'I might need it.'"

Once customers understood that there were better options - from thumb drives to CD-RW drives - the lack of a floppy drive would cease to be an issue, he said.

In the meantime, the floppy drive is optional only on Dell's Dimension 8250 - it remains standard on other systems. But Dell will extend the policy across its line as acceptance grows.

Dell representatives said that the company was cutting floppies first from its top-of-the-line Dimension 8250 becauseit was the PC the most-experienced PC users bought.

"Tech-savvy people are of the opinion that this is five years overdue," New said.

Apple Computer dropped the floppy from the systems in its product line-up nearly five years ago. It was a bold move that - over the years - relatively few PC vendors have tried to emulate.

Most floppy-less PCs, however, weren't successful. Evidently, PC buyers weren't quite ready to say goodbye.

Now, Dell is prepared to usher the technology out the door for good.

"Somebody with the influence of a Dell or other tier-one participant has to take the first step," New said. "We felt it was time to do that."

This time, the company doesn't expect much resistance, he said.

"We don't expect this to be an issue," New said. "When you give the customer the flexibility to choose, they'll be happy."

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