Surftec abandons Castle USBBy Chris Williams. Published: 30th Apr 2003, 22:03:44 | Permalink | Printable
Mass storage Digiflash welcomes Simtec kitRecently we reported that Surftec were whispering details of USB drivers for mass storage devices, specifically compact flash cards used with digital cameras and so on. We've learnt today that development work is in full swing with Surftec teaming up with Stuart Tyrell Developments to open their new site digiflash.co.uk. "Small quantities" of their new digiflash product is already shipping, we're told.
Surftec are eager to point out that their data card reader will work exclusively with Simtec's USB kit despite initially assuring us that they'll be working on drivers for Castle Technology's USB solution and STD working on the drivers for Simtec's USB offering.
"We have been forced to suspend our development of the Castle DigiFlash drivers. For the time being, we have no plans to complete the development of DigiFlash for the Castle/Iyonix USB", Surftec's Neil Farnham-Smith commented to drobe.co.uk earlier today.
Neil's words are echoed on the Surftec front page. The reason behind the sudden abandonment of Castle's kit is due to "recent changes forced upon us that have made developing a product for the Castle [USB] standard uneconomical", says Surftec.
Having shelved the idea of supporting Castle's USB kit for now, Neil grasped for the silver lining by adding to drobe.co.uk, "However the great news is that we are now putting extra effort into the Simtec standard and working closely with Stuart Tyrell to make the Simtec version of DigiFlash a success."
Survival of the fittest
Remember that due to differing software interfaces, drivers written for Simtec USB kit won't work with Castle's USB solution and with third parties developing drivers solely for Simtec's USB, Castle appear to be left with the burden of both developing their USB hardware and providing the necessary drivers to devices that punters wish to plug into their computers. Anyone one would think there's something wrong with Castle's API and please, we hope no one's going to suggest that Castle might turn to borrowing Linux USB code to make up the driver shortfall - certainly not after they learnt their lesson from their first brush with GPLed code.
There's also the critical mass situation too as users decide on which USB hardware to invest in, almost like survival of the fittest. Once the driver pile for Simtec's USB kit grows big enough (mass storage is a big boost), users will be quickly attracted to the Simtec kit which means developers will have incentive to keep supporting the Simtec kit. However Castle have the weight of their XScale powered Iyonix computer at their side which packs 4 USB sockets plus not so long ago their technical director hinted mass storage drivers for Castle USB on the Iyonix user mailing list.
The good news for digital camera owners, and the overall bottom line, is support for USB based flash cards is here. If you're a Simtec USB user. Email to digiflash.co.uk was bouncing at time of writing, we've mailed Surftec for further comment.
Surftec quickly got back to us this evening with some further comment. Essentially, they claim they had the rug pulled from under them leaving the project uneconomical although they say they understand why and have duly filed it all under the "these things happen" label. Nevertheless, having lost three grand invested into the Castle USB side of product, Surftec have as a result halted future planned projects.
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