Iomega is one of the strongest brand names in portable storage devices and media, so it seems only natural that it would introduce a CD-RW drive - the ZipCD - to sit alongside its Zip drives, Jaz drives and Clik! drives.
And yet, it is a bit of a strange move too. For one thing, this is a significant move for a company that has traditionally been in the magnetic media market, rather than the optical media. Iomega used to be in the optical market - it produced Bernoulli drives - but has not been active in it for years.
It is also strange because recordable CD is a funny business. Just when it is getting off the ground, it is about to be made obsolete by the imminent introduction of systems such as recordable DVD. And, anyway, 650Mb just doesn't seem very large any more.
Even more bizarrely, it is not even an Iomega product, it is just a rebadge. And, at a maximum 4x writing and rewriting, not a very fast one. Iomega has lost the advantage of its one strength - product design.
But, on its own merits, the ZipCD is a fine product, with a software bundle and installation routine aimed at the inexperienced. There is a multimedia tour that you can take before installation that will tell you what is going to happen. My installation was simple and trouble free.
As well as Adobe Photoshop and a CD-labelling application, the software includes Adaptec's Easy CD Creator and Direct CD. The former allows you to create data CDs in a single session and create music CDs.
Direct CD turns the drive into a normal removable drive, letting you read and write to it from any application. To read a CD-RW on most CD-Rom drives requires the installation of a free UDF driver, available on the installation disc or the Adaptec Web site.
The drive also comes with Iomega's Quiksync, a mirroring application that should keep a real-time back-up of your files. It works by comparing files in a folder with those on its target removable disc, even keeping alternative versions if you wish. For some as-yet-unresolved reason, it kept crashing my machine. However, even if it worked, you might find the speed of the drive difficult to justify for oft-changing files.
It will be interesting to see whether Iomega can do for the optical market what it did for magnetic media. I suspect that this will involve something in the DVD sphere. In the meantime, the ZipCD is a creditable drive and stays in my machine.
This was first published in December 1999