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Samsung readies fast floppy replacement

But slower Zip, SuperDisk drives have plenty of time before its launched

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Samsung has announced a challenger to Iomega's 100MB Zip and Imation's SuperDisk in the high-capacity floppy disk replacement market. The Pro-FD uses 123MB diskettes, but retains compatibility with old 720K and 1.44MB floppies. So too does the 120MB SuperDisk drive, but like the Zip, Imation's system is slow. Samsung claims it drive offers data transfer rates of 5MBps and is twice as fast as tradional floppy drives when it comes to using older media. It also sports a 128K data buffer. That puts the Pro-FD ahead in speed terms of Sony's forthcoming HiFD product which offers 200MB of storage, but transfer data at just 3.6MBps and is only compatible with 1.44MB floppies, as is the SuperDrive. There is also a question mark over Sony's commitment to its format. It originally promised to release the first HiFD drive in the Spring of this year, but the date was later revised to Summer 1998, and has now been put back to this Autumn. That said, Pro-FD drives won't be available until Q3 1999, so perhaps Sony still has time to throw in a couple more delays before in needs to launch. Samsung reckons its in with a chance of success in a market that has largely failed to do what it set out to do and completely replace the 1.44MB floppy. Zip's lack of backward compatibility ensured it was only ever going to be seen as an alternative, not a replacement. Imation has that role fully in mind for SuperDisk, but as J S Lee, MD of Samsung's Electromechanics division put it, "growth in the floppy replacement market has been hampered by the high cost of... components". That's why while some vendors have backed SuperDisk, most notably Gateway, NEC and Compaq, its largely been as an option rather than a standard part of the spec in place of the floppy drive. Lee claimed Samsung has made significant cost improvements on parts and media, ensuring Pro-FD will be more attractive to OEMs than its rivals. ®

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