Apps and Data to Go on USB Drives

U3 is touting its computing platform for USB smart drives which is set to launch in September with the introduction of U3 smart drives and U3 smart apps.

The company, which started up in January of this year, markets U3 system software that can be used to create what the company calls “personal workspaces” on USB drives.

U3 smart devices are capable of storing not only data and files but also applications. The user simply plugs the device into a laptop or PC and runs any of the apps installed on the drives. When he or she removes the drive, apps, files such as preferences and passwords, and data go with the device, leaving the computer unaltered (that is, no data or information is left behind).

Start-up is nearly automatic. In the typical scenario, the user enters a password then selects the desired app from a U3 launch pad, which comes installed on all U3 smart drives.

U3 envisions a variety of scenarios where U3 smart drives will become useful. For example, an IT manager could use the device to provision software and settings or conserve resources by making it possible for employees to share plain-vanilla laptops or PCs while maintaining the apps, files, data and settings unique to each user.

Eight USB flash drive manufacturers have announced plans to produce U3 drives (the company was created by flash drive makers M-Systems and SanDisk), says Kate Purmal, U3’s CEO.

The company hopes to attract software developers to write for its platform with free (for now) software and hardware development kits, which will be available next month, tech support and a Web-based distribution channel where users will be able to download U3 compatible apps.

More than 45 organizations—most are small utility vendors—have demonstrated their apps running on U3 drives, including ICQ, Mozilla, Preclick, Trend Micro and Zone Labs. The company is in negotiations with top-of-the heap software suppliers, Purmal says.

The device operates on Microsoft Windows-based laptops and PCs. Linux is on the road map for next year, Purmal says.