Vendors push to load applications on USB drives

Vendors have lined up to support a new platform that will allow users to run applications off of portable USB drives.

Multiple vendors have lined up to support a new platform that will allow users to run applications off of portable USB (Universal Serial Bus) drives.

It's not possible at the moment to run an application directly off a portable USB drive, and the U3 platform will allow users to do that, said Tricia Arana, a spokeswoman for startup U3, which announced the platform earlier this year. "It can be considered to be a portable virtual desktop on its own," she said. The data remains stored on the USB drive; none of it is transferred to a PC.

U3 will allow software developers and hardware manufacturers to create mobile applications around one platform, she said. The platform has been licensed to many flash disk manufacturers, including SanDisk, Kingston Technology, M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers and Verbatim, who will introduce U3-compliant disks later this year, according to U3.

Products using the technology are expected to start rolling out in September, according to Arana.

Each U3-compliant flash disk will include an application called U3 Launchpad from which the software applications can be launched. Twenty-four vendors announced U3-compliant software at the U3 Global Developer Summit being held in San Jose, California.

Siber Systems Inc. will offer Pass2Go, a 2M-byte security application that will allow U3-compliant USB drives to store Web site passwords, contacts and banking and credit card information. It will provide automatic log-in to online accounts, access to contacts, bookmarks, and encrypted text notes, according to the company.

Internet telephony company Skype Technologies announced a version of Skype's VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) product compatible with the U3 platform. The software will enable users to carry their Skype account information on U3-compliant drives, allowing them to make Internet calls from around the world directly off the drive, the company said.

The Mozilla Foundation is creating a version of Firefox to run on U3-compatible USB drives, Arana said.

Other U3-compatible products were displayed by McAfee, PowerHouse Technologies Group, RealNetworks and Trend Micro, Arana said.

U3 was founded by SanDisk and M-Systems. according to Arana. The company's launch was announced in January at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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