LaCie offers a fashionable, flashy USB keychain hard drive

Hillsboro (OR) - LaCie, a company known for portable hard drive systems, is entering the USB memory key market in a big and colorful way. Next month, the company will introduce its 'Carte Orange' credit card-sized memory device, in 4 Gb and 8 Gb configurations, powered by a miniature hard-drive.

LaCie Carte Orange USB key hard drive
While other companies build their USB keys into gumstick-like shapes, LaCie takes a different route. Its credit card-sized key is a scant 6 mm thick. The metal frame is surrounded by orange plastic, which in addition to absorbing some shock, also competes for attention among your other desktop gadgets. An integrated USB 2.0 cable eliminates the need for a separate extension cable. The Carte Orange will not need drivers, and should work with either Windows or Macintosh.

Small USB drives, or "USB keychains" as some call them, are typically made with flash memory. Consumers have accepted a relatively high cost per gigabyte, in exchange for a lack of moving parts and small form factor. Currently 1 Gb USB flash-drives sell for around $70 USD, but LaCie plans to offer its hard-drive powered keys for $99.99 (4 Gb) and $149.99 (8 Gb).

Miniature hard drives have found their way into MP3 players and digital cameras, but until recently, haven't been able to penetrate into the USB keychain market. Seagate, Hitachi and Toshiba have made one inch and smaller drives for the last few years and are continually increasing the capacities of these 5 mm thick drives. LaCie would not disclose the manufacturer for their hard drive mechanisms.

According to LaCie, the Carte Orange USB key should be available next month.