AMITIAE - Wednesday 11 May 2016

Cassandra: External Storage - Industry Moves and iOS User Needs

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Two apparently unrelated items of news suggest a shift in the ways some of us may be able to handle storage on external media, but also point to certain shortcomings for those of us who rely on Apple products.

SanDisk Earlier today, I saw an item on Engadget (Andrew Dalton) confirming the purchase by Western Digital of SanDisk, the maker of SD cards and other external storage, including notebook hard drives and OEM memory components.

In the last few years WD has also picked up Hitachi and Skyera (a flash-based storage development company).

Its main competitor, also with facilities in Thailand, is Seagate. Looking at the investment potential recently, Chris Lau (Seeking Alpha) suggested that while WD was on a firm footing for now, the outlook for Seagate was not so rosy particularly following the acquisition of SanDisk.

Seagate Drive

Western Digital has not quite cornered the market as Samsung is another player in the field of small storage. This week Cho Mu-Hyun (ZDNet) reports that the company has launched a 3D V-NAND, 256GB microSD card to follow its 128GB PRO Plus MicroSD Card.

While many users had been using such storage for cameras and other like devices, the availability of larger storage, in some cases matching the SSD disks that come with some computers, will provide users with smaller portable devices adding considerable flexibility.

iOS devices

The one group that, as yet, does not have such access is users of Apple iOS devices. Many may want to carry around large amounts of data - files, music, photos, plans - and the cloud is not always a viable solution, especially in areas where links are not good. Urban USA may have good connectivity, but rural Asia (or Africa) lacks good signals. Large tracts of land are WiFi dead-spots and have no carrier signals.

Users in these area will look to other forms of storage that allow them to carry the data they need and the SD card (or a small hard disk) is a good alternative when the cloud is not accessible. Users of certain Android devices have this luxury, but iOS users are not well-served.

Lightning SD Card reader

Apple does have an SD card reader for its devices with Lightning ports (there was also one earlier for the 30-pin connectors) but this is dedicated to the import of photographs. It works quite well, and I am able to import any photographs I take with my DSLR camera, including RAW images. Any other files on the SD card are completely invisible to iOS.

Both WD and Samsung see the importance of such storage media to future device use. It would be useful if Apple were also to see the value of alternatives to the cloud and allow such access as a feature in future versions of iOS.

iOS devices

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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