New Universal Storage Module Promises to Evolve Portable Data

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Is a bonafide universal storage cartridge finally at hand? It is if the Serial ATA International Organization and its partnership with 200 some-odd consumer electronics and computer companies can successfully implement the Universal Storage Module spec announced Tuesday.

This isn’t the first attempt at creating a universal storage cartridge. We’ve seen previous efforts fizzle; proprietary efforts with limited mass market appeal; and kludgy efforts that use standard 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch hard drives.

The difference here is multifold. First, the spec has manufacturer support. Second, the SATA-IO organization has helped design both a standard, native 6GB/s SATA interface connector for this new module; and a standard form factor that will work across a variety of consumer electronics devices, including HDTVs, DVRs, set-top boxes, computers, and game consoles. The SATA interface is the standard used today by internal hard drives and Solid Sate Drives (SSD). The USM connector is self-powered, so this cartridge won’t require a messy power cable.

The SATA USM spec will define how manufacturers can integrate slots to accept a powered external storage device into consumer electronics devices. Right now, the closest we have is using storage like an SD card or a USB flash drive, neither of which require a separate but both are limited in capacity. This standard will open up the ability to create portable media libraries for hundreds, even thousands of gigabytes, on a removable data device.

The connectors will be hidden, inset into the cartridge module, making the module better suited for its intended portability.

The SATA-IO Group is demonstrating the USM technology with a Toshiba HDTV and a Pace set-top box (Pacer makes boxes for numerous cable companies) here at CES this week, as well as with Seagate Tuesday night. The spec will be finalized early this year, and products are expected in 2011.

See PCWorld's full CES 2011 coverage for the latest from the show.

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