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June 7, 2000

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Iomega

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Subject:  Re: The Eventual Death of Zip
Author:  dehailey

Outstanding comments, Willis. I wish I had you in my writing program. You are as insightful as you are informed. I have posted your comments then answered them one by one.

Comment..

First, as a side note, are you saying there are 150 million students in a country of about 290 million, or about 51% of the US population? That doesn't sound right. This suggests that over 500,000 of the 1 million inhabitants of the Salt Lake City area are in school. I don't believe it.

Yes. Full time, part time, returning, life-long learning, kindergarten-through-death, more than a third of us are taking classes at any one time. As online technologies become more available, more students will come. We had 8 face-to-face students in our graduate program. When we went online, it jumped to 40 in 2 years. We now have a full program and are turning away students. What do you suppose will happen when all educational opportunities become available online?

Comment...

The future is NOT Zip drives in the backpacks of every kid. The technology has already seen its death sentence. Consider it the tape drive based storage media of the early 1980's. Here is why:

First, Zip is a MECHANICAL technology. Mechanical = poor reliability and even poorer performance.

This is an opinion based on no research I am aware of. To claim that "Mechanical = poor reliability" is silly. Go try to sell that to Porche.

Comment...

Here is a test you can run on your own machine: stick a 3.5" floppy into a Zip drive like you might expect any child or university student to accidentally do and watch what happens.

IOM has just patented a device that recognizes when people insert foreign objects into a Zip drive and protects the drive from that eventuality. It won't happen in the future.

Comment...

The #1 sign of things to come: XML

As an Internet specialist in education, I am sure you are very familiar with XML. In fact, I am a little surprised it doesn't govern more of your analysis. XML will completely revolutionize the way we handle and exchange data, from portable devices to global information systems. The key is that any device will be able to receive and understand information from any other device regardless of who built them and for what operating system. As a media specialist, are you aware that XML will even redefine Internet media like VRML and graphic formats? In short XML will become the lingua franca for communication between devices, web browsers, computers, servers, and applications.

I teach XML, HTML, DHTML, I also teach Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, and Asymetrix Toolbook and I use them to develop instructional projects. But they do not work well by themselves for instruction, largely because of bandwidth issues. My staging site is http://rbw305.rbw.usu.edu, you are welcome to come in and see some of my work--please not all at once. This is my office computer and has only 10 licenses. What you will find is that unless you have a very fast connection, these projects will serve slowly. Typically, we create a project that can be sold on a disk or downloaded onto one. The student does the high-bandwidth stuff on the disk (and Zip is more than fast enough) and does the interactive stuff with the teacher online. That way we don't have all of the students in the country attempting to attach to every class in the country at the same time. So while XML is ok, it does not replace the disk.

PORTABLE DEVICES. I'll cut to the chase: student's won't carry Zip disks, they will carry SOLID STATE (non-mechanical) based portable storage devices capable of storing far more than 100 MB.

Faster. More reliable. More storage. Reusable.

This will be great when it happens, but what school is going to buy these very costly devices.

Finally your best argument...

We already have MP3 players doing the same basic thing: storing information digitally on a solid state platform. When we think of portable devices, we think cell phones, Palm Pilots and RIO players. At its most simple, imagine a portable storage device with an LCD "File Manager" like menu. The student turns in the device and has it returned to them. Maybe they turn in one per assignment ("disposable") or maintain a collection of homework for the whole school year. I'll skip writing up a justification about cost. The cost will come down. We've seen it in every other segment of the computer industry.

I think that you are right that someday solid state, maybe even disposable technologies will take over. But not anytime soon, and we can't be certain that they ever will. These technologies are still relatively untested. Maybe they will work well, maybe not. But researchers are not going to wait to find out. I know a lot of educational researchers who are looking at digital directions in education and have yet to meet one who is looking at memory sticks.

Once they have been tested, prices still have to come down to a level that will permit schools to buy them in bulk.

Right now it is possible to get grant monies to enhance education at elementary levels, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the Feds aren't going to fund unproven technologies for anything more than proof-of-concept, and the evolution of education is happening right now. Schools are writing proposals for monies right now. The next generation might be memory sticks or something similar, but for this generation, my money is on the Zippo.

Best regards,

Dave


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