Microsoft has struck a new partnership deal with flash memory king SanDisk to develop a next generation USB flash drive based on SanDisk’s current U3 technology, which is designed to enable a new level of PC portability. A key to this strategy is the fact that the two vendors intend to develop a new standard and license it to other storage hardware vendors. 

A joint press release from Microsoft and SanDisk explained:  

“U3 smart drives are the size of a pack of chewing gum or smaller, and let users carry not only files but also popular Microsoft Windows software applications with their associated preferences and settings. Consumers simply plug a U3 smart drive into any Windows-based computer’s USB port to securely access personalized e-mail programs, Web browsers, productivity tools, multimedia applications and more. When they unplug their U3 smart drive, they take their personal information with them.

The new offering will be designed so that users can carry their personal computing environment — including a customized and familiar user interface, applications and data — on a flash storage device such as a USB flash drive or flash memory card. This computing environment will be accessible on Windows XP- and Windows Vista-based computers with a USB port or flash card reader. Users will be free to work on public or shared computers without fear of leaving personal information behind, and with confidence that their personal information will be encrypted, kept safer from malware, and otherwise protected through security provisions enabled by TrustedFlash technology.”

Here are some additional sources for the story:

Microsoft has been looking for ways to give users seemless portability for their fat-client desktop environment. In the past, Microsoft has talked about having users store their desktop settings, apps, and data in a cell phone and then plug that phone into PC devices everywhere and work like they are at their own desktops.

The problem with that strategy is that all users would need to have Windows Mobile cell phones, which is highly unlikely. However, lots of users now carry USB flash drives and/or flash memory cards and the price point is lower than mobile phones. As a result, this strategy has a much better chance of success. What do you think? Would you welcome the use of one of these next-gen USB drives? Join the discussion.