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Wednesday, March 20, 2002
IBM's tiny MicroDrive hits the road!


The IBM Microdrive is going places-- literally. The tiny drive has long been compatible with a variety of portable handheld devices, including laptops, PDAs, MP3 players and digital cameras; but now the revolutionary storage media has been incorporated in numerous digital devices used in the most mobile place yet -- the car. IBM's one-inch Microdrive is being used in cutting-edge digital products designed specifically for automotive environments, allowing consumers to leave their music CDs and maps at home.

"The IBM Microdrive has always been ultra-mobile, but the array of digital devices being developed for automobiles provides an opportunity for the product to satisfy a new audience," said John Osterhout, worldwide director of marketing for Microdrive products, IBM Storage Technology Division. "With the introduction of auto-enabled digital audio players and GPS navigational systems for the car, there is a demand for affordable, high-capacity storage media that maintains compatibility across the range of evolving digital devices."

The Blaupunkt Compact Drive MP3 record and playback system is one of the newest MP3 systems designed for the car to utilize the removable 1GB Microdrive, which enables the player to store up to 18 hours of continuous digital music. Blaupunkt's MP3 system has gained notable attention, receiving an Innovation Award at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

"Taking advantage of the Microdrive's high capacity and small size, the Blaupunkt MP3 system provides a simple, compact, and rugged way to add advanced MP3 playback capabilities to existing Blaupunkt car audio systems," said Jim Frazer, director, engineering & service, Blaupunkt, a division of Robert Bosch. "Blaupunkt's digital audio player enables drivers to download PC MP3 files directly from the computer and hit the road. Storing music on the Microdrive eliminates the need to change CDs while driving -- an important factor for both convenience and safety.

And the Microdrive's high capacity and versatility make it possible for users to not only access hours of digital content, but to move that data across multiple platforms."

All three capacities of the IBM Microdrive used with PDAs and other handheld digital devices are also compatible with the Clarion Joyride in-dash AM/FM/DVD/MP3/Entertainment/Navigation system, an automotive multimedia entertainment and information system with a CompactFlash Type II interface. Using a 340 megabyte Microdrive, travelers can store and access up to six hours of CD-quality MP3 files using the Joyride(superscript: )system; and since the Joyride utilizes a plug-and-play application, no extra drivers are required. Users simply download audio files from their laptops or home computers, store the data to the Microdrive, and access it via the Joyride system while on the road. The unit also incorporates a state-of-the-art navigation system to help travelers get where they're going.

"The Microdrive is an ideal storage medium for the Clarion Joyride because it can store the maximum amount of navigational data on the minimum amount of space," said Jeff Abrams, Clarion's manager of technical marketing and communication. "Other removable storage media may be cross-functional, but none are capable of storing up to one-gigabyte -- a necessary characteristic for users wanting to store music and navigational information on the device.

Compatibility with the Microdrive removable storage media is a core design feature of the Joyride system."

The Navman GPS i Series is another full-featured GPS navigation device that supports the IBM Microdrive. Unlike most GPS mapping systems, Navman tells drivers not only where they are, but also how to reach their final destination in the most efficient manner; and it does it at a fraction of the cost of permanently-installed navigation systems.

"Coupled with the a Navman GPS device, the Microdrive enables users to access more of the country than ever before in the form of highly-detailed maps right on their PDA," said Rus Graham, vice president of marketing, Navman USA, Inc. "The Navman GPS i Series is ultra-portable and can be easily moved from one vehicle to another, enabling travelers to leave their cumbersome maps and lists of directions behind -- whether traveling by car or by foot. And because data can be modified once stored on the IBM Microdrive, users can download updated maps from their PCs that reflect road closures and direction changes not available on physical maps."

The Microdrive's adventurous spirit doesn't end there. In addition to the MP3 and GPS systems that support the Microdrive, travelers using Europecar rental cars in and around the Bavarian capitol of Munich can take a Microdrive-enabled mobile PDA navigation system aboard their chartered vehicle. The navigation package -- a collaboration between CASIO Europe, DISTEFORA Navigation, Europecar Autovermietung and IBM, consists of the CASIO Cassiopeia E-125 G Pocket PC, DISTEFORA's P1 navigation software and the IBM Microdrive; the system, which is one-hundred percent mobile, is installable in any vehicle and also functions outside the car for walkers and bikers to use as an electronic city map.

"Using a CompactFlash Type II interface for external smart cards, the Cassiopeia PC is compatible with the Microdrive and functions ideally with the navigation software," said Andreas Westhoff, DISTEFORA's head of products. "The Microdrive can store P1's entire map of Germany on the organizer, facilitating the most convenient onboard navigation. And because users hear directions from an electronic voice rather than having to read them while on the road, their driving experience is much safer."

A gentle touch to the screen enables users to choose between a detailed color map or a graphic representation of the area using arrows on the Cassiopeia's high-resolution color display. If users lose their way, the automatic P1 rerouting software redirects them to their final destination; on arrival, the mobile navigation system can then be used as an orientation aid outside of the vehicle, using navigational information stored on the IBM Microdrive.


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