U3 USB Smartdrives – The U3P Format

December 6, 2007

I recently came across an application that ended in a .u3p I had absolutely no idea what this was but after doing some research I came to find out that it is basically a means to make applications (as well as data) portable via the use of new USB devices called “U3 Smartdrives”.

You can read a very good “Newbie Guide” here at EverythingUSB.com and if you wish to learn more you should visit the home of U3 Smart Technology at U3.com

For people using Windows Vista you should be aware at the outset that there are some current issues, namely many existing U3 smart drives will not work with Microsoft Vista without an upgrade to the U3 Launchpad. You can read an article here that explains in more detail. Only applications that are specifically developed for the U3 platform may be installed and run through the U3 Launchpad. You can browse and download U3 smart applications from U3 Software Central.

This new technology intrigued me because I have tried “being portable” by taking applications and data with me on USB sticks in the past, including an entire (cutdown) version of my WindowsXP on a 2GByte stick.

Sadly Google searches bring up a lot of geek-style sites when you do searches for expressions like “Where can I buy U3 (USB) Smartdrives?” and the reality is that this technology is still under early adoption. The number one manufacture appears to be Sandisk, a dominant manufacturer of flash drives, USB memory sticks and other memory devices and readers. This makes sense seeing as Sandisk and Microsoft seem to be working together in regards to U3 and its potential for enterprise deployment.

At the moment, there really are only a few locations on the web where you can look at purchasing these new U3 smart devices and two of these are the U3 Website and directly from Sandisk themselves.

This technology is definitely worth keeping an eye on. I can see it taking off fairly soon, especially with two industry heavyweights behind it. Developers interested in mobilizing their own applications and/or developing U3 smart applications for mobilization and deployment should look at getting started with the U3 Developer Kit.