U3 to U-Zero

Update: Start-ups backed by industry peers almost never work out. The latest example being U3, a start-up that was pushing the concept of running applications off a USB flash drive. U3 was co-promoted by M-Sytems and Sandisk.

In November 2006, Sandisk acquired M-Systems, and as a result U3 became part of Sandisk. Last week Sandisk said that it was teaming up with Microsoft, and the two companies will develop a new apps-on-the-go experience, replacing U3’s technology. U3-based products will be available up until second half of 2008.

Sandisk’s decision to kill U3 is a shame, for when U3 launched at DEMOfall 2005, it held so much promise. The platform truly supported open apps – Mozilla Firefox, Open Office, Thunderbird – and some of the more popular apps like Skype. U3 lost some of its buzz and Sandisk didn’t really spend anything to promote the offering.

A part of the reason why U3 and others like them have slow to gain mainstream adoption is because of the relatively simple web-based software offerings.

Nevertheless, after this new deal with Microsoft, you can bet on the fact that Microsoft Apps will dominate Sandisk’s USB drives.

The new offering will be designed so that users can carry their personal computing environment — including a customized and familiar user interface, applications and data — on a flash storage device such as a USB flash drive or flash memory card.

Regardless of that, it is a cautionary tale for developers, and a lesson for them: when a platform is promoted by a company(s) whose main business is selling commodity memory, their long term commitment to that platform is highly suspect. After this move, don’t blame us for being skeptical about Sandisk’s long term commitment in the music player business.

If you are looking for another better option that what Microsoft and Sandisk propose to launch, try MojoPac, made by a company called RingCube.

Recommended Reading: Keith Shaw’s Goodbye U3, at least for now