Mini-Interview: SanDisk Xbox 360 USB Flash Drive

by: Chuck -
Last week I got to talk to the folks at SanDisk about their Xbox 360 USB Flash Drive.  A lot of people (possibly even myself) grimaced at the concept of having a branded USB drive for the 360 but after talking to Tim Sutton from SanDisk I can see who they are targeting with the product.  Here's the full interview.

Can you introduce yourself and talk about your role at SanDisk?
My name is Tim Sutton and I’m the product marketing manager for the retail gaming line of products which includes the Wii SD card, the DSI SD card, the Xbox USB drive, and finally out line of MSPD/M2 products for PSP and PSP Go

Why did SanDisk get into making these specially designed products for game consoles?
The reality is that in the console space, the pour their money into the branding and the leadership and it’s just natural for us to put together a product to make it easy for the consumer to select and choose. When you got to the accessory aisle and each of the consoles/portables has their own space and they have their own set of accessories.

It was an outgrowth of two things: making it an easy choice for consumers and secondarily for the console manufacturers. They were looking for specific memory support for their platforms so that they could be assured of compatibility and performance. So we entered into licensing agreements with the Microsoft the Nintendo guys. With Sony, we’ve actually partnered with them way in the past on developing the MSPD and M2 standards.

So you probably knew about Microsoft going to USB before it happened then right?
Yes, we started working with them before E3 of last year.

The big thing we are here to talk about today is the process of moving your data from your old Xbox 360 to (hopefully) your shiny new Xbox 360 slim.
Yes, I’ll go ahead and get right into it. Our Xbox 360 drive is already pre-configured at the factory for the file system that the Xbox 360 uses and it’s also optimized for that file system so it’s just plug and play. You plug it straight in to your Xbox 360 and you can transfer your gamertag and your saves or other personal data onto the Xbox USB drive and then take it straight over to new system and either copy it over or keep the data on your USB drive if you want to do that.

It’s pretty straight forward and simple. If you have more than the eight or sixteen gigabytes of data then you’ll have to figure out some kind of efficient system to move the data over or just take the key and use it for the critical data want to take with you.

The other thing is that people (from what I’ve heard), people really like the fact that they can take their gamertag and game saves with them anywhere. I’ve actually heard a few stories of guys who were driving in their cars, got a phone call from their buddy, and then went straight over to that person’s house. They’ve now got their data with them and don’t have to worry about trying to spoof the system or go through a backdoor to move their information over.

What would you want to use the SanDisk USB Drive over a transfer cable or another brand of USB drive?
So regarding USB to USB, there’s a performance test that the Xbox when you first plug in a new USB drive. Our USB is guaranteed to meet or exceed the test requirements. From what we’ve seen online, about 1 out of (non SanDisk) six drives fails the performance test. That’s a straight failure, where they just can’t be used and don’t meet the minimum performance threshold.

The other level is that you can meet the minimum threshold and you operate but are sort of in a crippled mode. Ours operates in full compatibility mode so there’s technology and performance memory that we put in the drive that’s standard. That’s probably the biggest thing.

The other thing is that a consumer doesn’t want to have to think about going in and setting it up. I know it’s a pretty easy to do but for some people it’s just another thing they want to avoid. The plug and play compatibility is the other issue that we take of at the factory.

The third thing is that we through in the one month of Xbox Live Gold in there as a bonus. It has a little bit of a retail value so we’re pretty happy that we were able to work with Microsoft to provide that for the consumer.

For me, and this is a matter of personal preference, I like that It matches the new Xbox 360 slim. You asked about how long we’ve been working on this and we didn’t know about the new box but we knew that they had certain requests for colors, palette, and form factor. I don’t know if you’ve seen the new box but on the back of the new box there are three USB ports and they are really tight. If you take a close look at them, they are all butted up against each other. One of the reasons our drives are so slim is that it allows you to put two of them in the rear ports if need be. So if you have a cable back there and you need to plug in the drive you can do it, especially if you’re using your two front ports.

As far as the cable, that’s great. If you’ve got a really large amount of personal content to move over and you want to move them over that’s a great option. We just provide another way to move stuff.

That was it for the main part of the interview, we chatted about E3 for a bit.  I'd like to thank Tim for taking the time to talk to us as well as Alexis for helping to set things up.
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