Hitachi has put a hard drive on a diet, hoping its trimmer figure will woo makers of audio players and other consumer electronics products.
The disk drive maker on Wednesday announced a new drive with a 1.8-inch diameter disk but smaller overall size, thanks to the use of a streamlined connector.
"Real estate is precious commodity in consumer devices, which is why we've focused on reducing the space consumption of our 1.8-inch product to help manufacturers make smaller and sleeker devices," Bob Holleran, a general manager at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, said in a statement.
Consumer electronics devices are seen as a fast-growing market for hard drives, which have made their living for years in the guts of PCs and larger computers. Apple Computer's iPod music player, which has a 1.8-inch drive from Toshiba, has been a runaway success. And the iPod Mini, with a 1-inch drive from Hitachi, also has proven popular.
Not surprisingly, a competitive market has emerged in the arena of drives smaller than the 3.5-inch models typically used in desktop computers. Drive giant Seagate recently entered the fray for 1-inch drives. And both Seagate and Western Digital have slapped patent-infringement lawsuits on Cornice, a company that makes 1-inch drives. Cornice recently lashed back at Seagate.
Last year, 2.7 million 1.8-inch drives were shipped worldwide, according to research firm Gartner. In the first six months of this year alone, some 3.2 million have been shipped, Gartner said.
Hitachi said its new Travelstar C4K60 series drives for consumer electronics operate at 4,200 revolutions per minute and are available in 20GB (gigabyte) and 30GB capacities. The suggested retail price for the 20GB drive is $125, and the 30GB drive will go for $160, but volume pricing may be different, a Hitachi spokeswoman said. Drive samples are now being shipped for testing purposes, she said.
The new drive has a 10 percent smaller "footprint" than the company's previous 1.8-inch model, Hitachi said.
The leanness stems from the use of a so-called zero insertion force (ZIF) connector rather than the standard connector found in drives going into notebook computers, according to the company. ZIF connectors not only have fewer pins and thinner cables, but also are common in the consumer electronics industry, Hitachi said. Thus the drive is designed to integrate easily with consumer electronics devices.
Gartner analyst John Monroe said the ZIF connector should lead to greater reliability. But Monroe questioned the long-term demand for 1.8-inch drives. The market for drives 1 inch or smaller is potentially much larger, according to Monroe.