DataPlay will face several challenges, not the least of which will be marketing a new and largely unheard of product to consumers. In turning its new technology into a mass market product, the company will also depend heavily on the continued support of its manufacturing partners. The company will also need to keep its costs down, although it expects to be able to offer its microdrive to manufacturers for less than $100, Steve Volk, DataPlay chairman and chief executive officer, said.
DataPlay's disk can also be used for storing text in electronic books or as a stand-alone product for offloading music and video files on a PC hard drive. Other financial backers for the company include the likes of Samsung, Creative Labs, and Toshiba.
"We have significantly higher capacity and significantly lower pricing than our competitors," DataPlay's Uhlir said. "It is so affordable that you can fill up a disk and then just use another disk for the rest of your needs."
The DataPlay product wwill compete with a raft of alternatives including SD (Secure Digital) memory cards from Panasonic, Toshiba, and SanDisk; Sony's MemoryStick; Iomega's Clik drive; and IBM's new MicroDrive. Nonvolatile flash memory cards typically retail for about $3 per megabyte, and the cards aren't expected to reach 256KB until later this year. Iomega's Clik drive is slightly larger than DataPlay's technology and is priced at $10 for a 40MB card.
San Diego-based e.Digital was the first company to make a working media player device based on DataPlay's technology. e.Digital also helped Toshiba and Samsung on their respectively branded media players. Like DataPlay, e.Digital uses its proprietary technology to get devices running faster and taking up less space.
A number of companies have already started using e.Digital's MicroOS and MicroCAM (compressed audio manager) technology. The MicroOS provides device makers with a tight operating system capable of managing data files as well as codecs, integrating security systems for content protection and handling the uploading and downloading of files from PCs.
The MicroCAM technology stands as a way to manage the myriad audio compression and decompression formats in a single device.
E.Digital's DataPlay-enabled portable jukebox on display at CES includes a 10GB hard drive capable of storing more than 3,000 CD-quality songs in a unit about the size of a deck of cards. Known as Treo, the device should appear in the United States for less than $400 by the end of the first quarter of this year.