As computers and other digital devices become more pervasive, the need to transfer files between machines becomes greater. Sony has joined a small number of lesser-known companies with the unveiling of its Micro Vault, a stylish and cool new key chain device designed to make this task easier.
The Micro Vault is a chunk of flash memory that can hang on a key chain. Available in 16MB, 32MB, 64MB and 128MB capacities, the device is small, portable and doesn't come with all the hassles of memory cards, which require dedicated drives or adapters and often special drivers too. However, this convenience comes at a not-so-cool premium price.
Like competing products, it gets around these hassles by employing a USB interface, which means it can connect to almost any personal computer. Machines running Microsoft's Windows 2000, Me or XP, or Apple's MacOS 9 and above, don't require a driver to be installed. Other machines will require a driver but it's a standard one that is supplied with the Micro Vault and might already be on your system. It also includes Sony's Privacy Zone software, which allows users to create a password-protected zone for storage of personal files.
With a loop so that it can be attached to a key chain, the small device is certainly cool - something not unusual from Sony. However, users will have to decide on what premium they attach to this coolness: the cheapest Micro Vault, the 16MB version, will carry a $US50 manufacturer price tag, and the 32MB version will cost $90. At 64MB, the device will cost $150, and the 128MB version will cost a cool $300.
The 16MB model is $15 more expensive than a Sony Memory Stick module of the same capacity, and the price difference gets larger as the capacity increases, with the 128MB Micro Vault costing double the price of the equivalent Memory Stick.
The price difference is largely a tax on convenience. With Memory Stick, users need to purchase an adapter and install a driver on the computer they are using, said Deborah Szajngarten, a spokeswoman for Sony Electronics, explaining the price difference between the two devices.
The Micro Vault will be available in the US in January 2002, and Sony plans to follow with launches in other markets, although dates are yet to be decided. The devices will come in four colours, coded to the four capacities. The 16MB device will be orange, the 32MB one red, the 64MB one blue and the 128MB model black, Sony said.