RealTime IT News

Lexar JumpDrive Has Google Inside

How do you make a commodity product standout? In marketing they call it "adding value," but does adding free software to one of those keychain-ready Flash drives fit the bill?

Lexar Media thinks so, and from a convenience factor it may have a point. The Fremont, Calif.-based digital-media company announced that starting next Month, consumers will be able to buy Lexar's USB Flash drives with Google's Picasa, Google Toolbar and Google Desktop Search applications included.

Customers who purchase a Lexar JumpDrive simply have to plug the device into the USB port on their computers. They will then be prompted with instructions to easily install the free applications. Once the user accepts installation, the Google products automatically install on the computer and are removed from the USB Flash drive.

"We're excited to make it possible for people to easily search the documents, photos, music and video they store on their Lexar JumpDrives and computer hard drives, as well as to find information on the Internet," said Marissa Mayer, Google vice president of search products and user experience.

As these "thumb" drives are typically used to transport data files to another PC or notebook, the option of being able to carry over and quickly load applications that the other PC doesn't have can be a time saver for those that want or need to use them.

And if the other computer isn't online, getting those apps at the Google Web site isn't even an option.

Even if consumers aren't sure they will use the applications, it can't hurt to have the name of the world's most popular search engine associated with the product.

Lexar clearly thinks so. The new retail packaging for the Lexar JumpDrive features the familiar multi-colored Google logo prominently in the top right hand corner.

But Lexar isn't the first thumb drive maker to offer pre-loaded applications. Last month, Kingston, Memorex, SanDisk and Verbatim announced they were incorporating software from U3 that adds applications to the handy storage devices.

These U3-labeled smart drives include what the company calls a "personal workspace," which saves not only data and files but also software programs, user preferences and the means for managing them.

U3 is acting as a kind of clearinghouse for collecting the applications that run on thumb drives. The "Software Central" section of its Web site features such applications as the popular Skype Internet phone software and Firefox browser.

Based in Redwood City, Calif., U3, was created with backing from USB Flash drive companies M-Systems and SanDisk and licenses its platform to USB drive manufacturers.

The company said it's working on other ways to extend the usefulness of thumb drives. One area being explored is the capability to store user preferences for Microsoft Office applications.

When the drive is plugged into another computer with Office, user preferences, such as document-formatting options, could be loaded without needing to be reestablished by the user.