Friday, October 21, 2005

USB sticks are the new CDs?

Ok this is a bit geeky, even by my standards, but the German encyclopedia Brockhaus has been released on a 1GB USB stick. The stick has even been designed to look scholarly. That's cool.

I know nothing about Brockhaus but when I was a kid we had a copy of the World Book which was 20 something volumes of information. I loved them. I could take a book for any letter and just sit down and start reading. Unfortunately all these things age and end up out of date. I never bothered with computer encyclopedias which are based on CD. It was just the esthetics of the CD that never appealed to me. The CD made the encyclopedia feel cheap and flimsy, though it contained much more information and media than the book version ever could. To me USB sticks would feel different, more solid and dependable, more weighty and official.

In fact the company I work for is considering shipping its software on USB sticks as well. We used to ship CDs, then we went download-only, and now we are looking into branded USB. They are more expensive but easier to create and customise, and they make a better impression on the customer. If the customer wipes the thing and uses it to carry their own data, well we still get advertising and they will just have to sit through the 300MB download next time they want to install the software. I expect more companies will come to this realisation over the next couple of years and more software will start showing up on USB. Games will never appear on USB since the costs would be too great, but when the software is quite expensive or the quality of packaging is important then USBs may become fairly common.

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