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A few weeks ago, Iomega Corporation began advertising its new SyQuest compatible cartridges, for use in removable cartridge drives using 44 MB and 88 MB SyQuest mechanisms. Licensed by SyQuest, the advertisements said, the cartridges were actually "more reliable" and "more affordable." A poster at SyQuest's booth at last week's Macworld Expo, however, told a different story. "Just because they have a license doesn't mean they know how to drive," it said.

According to SyQuest, they have indeed signed a licensing agreement permitting Iomega to sell SyQuest-compatible cartridges. SyQuest does not, however, approve them for use in SyQuest-manufactured cartridge drives; in theory, use of these cartridges voids your warranty. The company says it is unwilling to approve the cartridges because Iomega declined SyQuest's offer of assistance in developing quality control procedures.

We understand SyQuest's interest in maintaining a certain level of quality control in cartridges, but we don't understand their approach. Perhaps insisting on spot-checking the quality of the end product or the manufacturing process would have made sense before signing a license agreement, but it hardly seems appropriate now.

If SyQuest indeed refuses to honor drive warranties for users who have used Iomega's compatible cartridges in their drives, all is not lost. Iomega has pledged to replace any SyQuest mechanism adversely affected by one of its cartridges.

Meanwhile, Iomega continues to tout the advanced technology incorporated into the cartridges it sells. Reverse-engineered by a European company (see TidBITS-169) from earlier SyQuest cartridges, the Iomega cartridges are reinforced with a "diamond-like" coating that Iomega says provides greater resistance to head crash or shock. (The 44 and 88 MB cartridges work in 200 MB SyQuest mechanisms, but there is no 200 MB cartridge available from Iomega.)

SyQuest may well have agreed to license its technology because it saw licensing as simpler than leaping into protracted legal battles. Whether or not that was the intent, SyQuest's money remains available for research and development, rather than for legal firms' coffers, and the end user can only benefit. If cartridges become less expensive as a result as well, so much the better.

Iomega Corporation -- 800/947-0928 -- 801/778-3000

 

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