Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc. (HGST) has begun shipping a new version of its 1-inch Microdrive hard-disk drive that can hold 50 percent more data than the company’s current highest capacity model, it said Wednesday.
The 6GB version of the drive is notable not just for its higher capacity but also because it marks a shift in HGST’s pricing for the diminutive drive family. The new drive will cost US$299, which is a 40 percent reduction from the $499 price at which HGST has introduced new Microdrive products in the past, said Bill Healy, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing at HGST. The company is also lowering the price of its 4GB Microdrive to $199.
Customers who buy HGST’s drive in bulk for use in their own products have been enjoying regular price cuts for sometime, said Healy. HGST’s customers include Apple, which uses the 4GB Microdrive in its iPod Mini music player and on Wednesday announced a 6GB version of the player.
The higher capacity drive and lower prices will likely increase competition in the market for small-size hard-disk drives. HGST competes against several companies, including Seagate Technologies Inc., Cornice Inc. and China’s GS Magicstor Inc. Fujitsu Ltd. said on Tuesday that it is also considering entering the market.
At present, these companies are largely chasing business from manufacturers of portable audio players, like the iPod. The market for such devices was estimated to be about 12 million units in 2004 and will be about 35 million in 2008, according to a December report from IDC.
“We’re aiming for the music player market,” said Healy. “We hope to bring (the Microdrive) to newer applications like cell phones in the (2006) timeframe.”
The capacity increase in the new drive is possible because HGST is packing data more tightly on the disk’s surface. The new drive’s areal density, which is the standard measure for disk drives, is 78G bits of data per square inch versus 56.5G bits per square inch in the current 4GB drive, the company said.
At January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, HGST announced plans to have an even higher capacity Microdrive out in the second half of this year. That drive will offer a capacity of between 8GB and 10GB and will also drop the Compact Flash interface for a ZIF (zero insertion force) connector of the type favored by consumer electronics makers.
HGST confirmed those plans remain on track with the launch of the 6GB drive, which it said fills a spot in the product line between the current 4GB model and higher capacity versions coming later this year.