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The USB Universal Serial Bus Flash drives are small storage devices which can store large amount of data in the form of flash memory and are portable. They are available in different sizes varying from 256MB to 64GB. The history to when the USB pen drives first came in existence is quite controversial, however, it is said that the first commercially-available USB flash drive was called the "ThumbDrive," it was produced by Trek Technology in the year 2000. Soon IBM came out with its own model known as the "DiskOnKey". By 2002, there were several companies which entered the market producing a similar product and marketing it.
Pen drives comparatively have a much larger size than a usual floppy disk, which has a maximum data capacity of 1.44MB, or a compact disk, which has a maximum capacity of 700MB. This invention was a vast transformation from the era of floppy disks, as people required a device that would have a larger memory and yet be portable. The previous technology could only be used to store small size data for a short period of time that is 3-5 years, while Pen drives can store much larger size data for at least 10 years and no special care is required unlike in the case of CDs. The latest pen drives consist of a built-in MP3 player and finger print scanners. They only concept of "data storage" seems to be common between both the technologies. This technology highly attracted consumers as it made large amount of data transfer possible, which would otherwise be very expensive to carry out.
This invention can be classified to be a discrete change from the traditionally used floppy drives or compact disks. This is because it was completely transformed by size, shape and its features. Alternatively, since it still belongs to the segment of 'device for storing memory', it may also be considered a gradual change. Its uniqueness and the fact that it has been further developed and integrated with appliances, like music players and cameras; make it a more discrete change. In the recent years many firms have entered the industry and started supplying the product, there have been gradual changes made to the initial design. The intense competition in the industry is mainly based upon the amount of features provided by each competitor at the lowest rate possible. This is a clear contrast to its initial stage where the degree of competition was low with only a few firms supplying.
With the degree of competition increasing in the industry the level of uncertainty has always been high as the companies and the businesses are unaware of "what is next?" However, the recent upgrades made to the design show comparatively a smaller change in the initial design. It can be said that the product has probably reached the highest point in its growth stage or is entering the maturity phase and thus further developments need to be done for it to survive. The level of uncertainty seems to be declining with the progression in the industry. When speaking of Economic contribution, pen drives have not made any contributions to the economy as such. However, they have had a positive impact on the society as mentioned above, they made large data transfer possible at cheaper rates.
The invention of USB flash drives has affected many stakeholders (with respect to IBM); Stakeholders are those group of people who are affected either directly or indirectly by an organisations actions (business dictionary). The ones most affected would be competitors, consumers, suppliers, mangers and shareholders. The competitors are stakeholders directly interested in the decisions made by its rival, IBM. Pen drive was a new advanced product which almost replaced the previous technology thus attracting the consumers to it, who later switched from companies supplying floppy disks and compact disks to IBM, thereby reducing the competitors market share. The competitors then had to incur huge research and development costs and produce a product at least equivalent to IBM in order to retain their market share. The invention also affected the suppliers of IBM. As the technology got older, cost reduction was essential for IBM in order to survive the cut-throat competition. Hence, the suppliers would have to be efficient enough to supply at reasonable rates. Consumers were amongst the highly affected stakeholders, they are the ones who tryout new products and provide feedback to the companies. They are high risk takers as they initially entered an unknown market as this kind of technology was an entire new concept.
Pen drives are no doubt smaller and more compact when compared to compact disks and floppy drives. By compact we mean that they are physically smaller than the latter and are capable of storing larger amount of data. When compared to CD's they are also scratch proof, making them more portable. Latest designs have reduced the size further, as small that it can be easily carried in a wallet. Also some are available with cameras and MP3 players built in them. This factor also shows that it is not resistant to innovation, further improvements and modifications are being done to develop the product further. The development will attract consumers who are more technology savvy; it could also be done to overcome the drawbacks it currently suffers.
Over the years the invention has innovated a number of time, however there are drawbacks to this kind of technology also. Despite the fact that the storage capacities have improved over the years not a lot has been done to improve the security of storing information. Many businesses supply their employees with pen drives for them to access work from almost anywhere, thus security is a major issue as important data could be misplaced, if pen drive is misplaced. There is no technique available to track the device or to retain or erase the information on it. Also these devices are not compatible with some operating systems thereby not proving to be efficient enough for the consumers. It can alternatively be argued as they are compatible with most of the commonly used operating systems like Microsoft Windows XP, Mac OS X, etc. A lot of information is stored on a drive and it can be used on almost all the computers, the more it is used on different systems the higher are the chances for it to contain a virus. This means that if a computer contains virus and a pen drive is attached to it, unless it is write-protected it is very easy for a virus to copy itself on a pen drive and attack other computers. This again reduces security of information as some anti viruses often delete the virus affected file, therefore essential information could be lost.
The technology may be getting better each day but the new releases and latest pen drives are very expensive. This can also be considered to be a disadvantage as the consumers are unable to buy it and by the time they do a better version of it is available. As far as personal experience says, pen drives have a slower transfer rate when compared to hard disks. However, the size factor nullifies the impact as pen drives are much smaller and portable. It could also be one of the future development possibilities for the businesses to make it even more sleek and stylish. They could enhance its security by probably adding an auto-lock code to it, so if it is in wrong hands it would probably lock itself and be of no use. They could also work on the transfer rate and increase the storage capacity to around 1 tetra byte.