Expert Speak

At a Snail’s Pace

Snail's Pace

New technologies, like new rules are always difficult to accept. More so if we talk about the Indian mind-set. But attitudes apart, what should be considered is the price factor. Magneto-Optical (MO) drives, with all its features and uses, is not exactly an economical option.p____p This may be the reason why even though MO drives entered India much before Zip drives did, they are still unfamiliar, at least in the Indian market. Whereas Zip drives have been immensely successful in replacing floppy drives.p____p So can this unpopularity attributed only to the price tag that it carries? Where does lack of awareness figure on the list?

The Paperless Drive

Technology has caught India in a big way. Corporates, and even an increasing number of individual users, have been attracted to laptops and mobile devices. Whether to increase mobility or to get into the groove.p____p However, certain important aspects of technology have been ignored and one of them is the MO drive. One of the reasons may be because the storage segment per se offers many options to users. Uday Jayaram, director of Schleif Master, says, “It takes a lot of effort to create awareness in the market.”p____p Schleif Master is a data storage solutions provider and analyzes customer requirements to evaluate correct requirements. It has been in the field since the last 10 years with a main focus on data storage solutions.p____p It is also into importing and distribution. It represents companies like Sony and Olympus and is an exclusive and a direct Indian representative for optical drives. It also represents Ultera, which manufactures tape solutions, ASM for mass storage, and a storage solutions partner for IBM and Compaq.

Optical Drives in India

MO drives are an easy way to back up files on a personal computer. As the term implies, an MO device employs both magnetic as well as optical technologies to obtain ultra-high data density.p____p According to Jayaram, these drives were introduced in India in 1997. However, it was not taken too well and users were satisfied with the mediocre storage method available to them. He says, “It has taken four years for a company like the Japan-based Olympus to introduce USB storage devices. These are low cost options that are long lasting and robust.” Olympus manufactures cameras and MO drives under its own brand.p____p USB devices are the more economical options of MO drives. They are 3.5-inch in size and are easy to transport. Moreover, a single MO disk can be written for more than ten million times, which is a semi-permanent storage device. It can transfer data five times faster than a CD-R/RW.p____p MO drives are available in various storage capacities to meet individual demands. They can be priced anything between Rs. 14,000 to about Rs.1,15,000. Jayaram adds, “We want to expand our sales figures but so far we have managed to sell only about 5,000 different optical drives in the country. Some of them are SCSI drives that are high-end products and are more expensive than a Zip but more reliable.”

Playing With Price

Apart from being more reliable, MO drives have an excellent proofing design and system when compared with other storage devices. This features suits Indian conditions to a T.p____p Jayaram exclaims, “The only problem we are facing is the lack of awareness. Although traders in the metros know of them, they are unable to spend time on explaining end-buyers and dealers about them.” Unfortunately, the momentum that the market had is lost because of high price.p____p He continues to say that it is trying to create awareness through e-mails. “We have an attractive offer for resellers who are able to sell our products above a specified number within the time frame. They will be eligible for a paid trip to Mauritius. However, the response so far has been only average,” he says. The product is priced at Rs. 14,000 for a 640 MB USB drive and accompanies an MO drive for free.p____p Keeping price-sensitive issues in mind, Olympus has introduced low-cost MO drives in the Indian market, a pocket-sized USB device that promises to cut costs in the long run for people who need to store data regularly. Most magneto optical drives are manufactured by companies like Sony and Olympus. Even Fujitsu is a manufacturer for these products but its products are not very popular in India.p____p Jayaram states that Schleif Master has been in the storage industry since the last ten years. “We want to offer good technology products and provide additional backup solutions for users who require it,” he adds. The vendor is a storage solutions partner for IBM and Compaq.p____p He however believes that the storage industry in India has yet to mature. Whether Jayaram is right about this or not, the fact that MO vendors rate the life of stored data to 30 years and more might prove to be an incentive for prospective buyers.p____p It remains ot be seen if the MO Drives will shake off the label of low awareness and price disadvantage. Schlief Master alson with its principal partners,Sony and Olympus need to do someting dramatic to recreate consumer interest in this product range.

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