The death knell for the humble floppy drive may have been sounded, following Dell's decision to stop installing them on all new PCs.
The Texas-based company has said it will no longer install the devices on its PCs, except as an optional extra, starting next month. Like eight-track tapes and even its 5-1/4 inch floppy cousin, the 3-1/2 inch, 1.44MB floppy disk now faces near extinction.
Analysts have said that Dell's decision is probably a precursor to a strategy that most PC makers will embark upon in the next couple of years. It has been almost five years since Apple Computer Inc stopped including floppy disk drives in Macintosh computers.
The move from Dell has been coming for some time. In 2001, the company stopped selling floppy drives on some business desktops, followed by a similar move on the Inspiron 4150 and 8200 laptop models in 2002.
While the other big computer makers still include floppy drives, they too have made similar overtures. Last year, Hewlett-Packard began offering alternative USB-based flash memory storage drives on some notebooks and the floppy drive was eliminated altogether on a few top-of-the-line Presario 900 notebooks.
And experts also note that new storage devices hold far more data and are just as easy to use. Standard CDs, for example, will hold 650MB of information and new higher density versions are capable of storing a whopping 1.3GB, or about as much data as 900 floppy disks. DVDs have even beefier data storage abilities, with a one-sided, single-layer disc able to hold about 4.4GB, and a double-sided, double-layer DVD offering almost 16GB of capacity.
For smaller files, other options are available to consumers in lieu of floppy disks, including MP3 players and Zip disks. The proliferation of the Internet and e-mail has also been a killer for the floppy, since files can now be instantly transmitted from any connected computer to any other.
What's more, a number of companies are also now selling key chain-sized flash memory devices as floppy alternatives. In fact, Dell sells its own-branded 16-megabyte USB flash memory drive, which is now a standard in high-end Dimension computers. The company has hinted that it will make this same drive available on all desktops, if consumer response to the idea is positive.