Seagate readies shift to perpendicular recording

Seagate is planning a massive shift to next-generation recording tech over the next year, meaning more capacity for PCs, servers and music player drives.

Nearly all of hard disk drive maker Seagate Technology's products will use perpendicular recording technology by the end of 2006, the company's chief financial officer (CFO) said Tuesday.

Perpendicular recording promises big capacity boosts for drives used in servers, PCs, notebooks and portable devices. The technology works by standing the magnetic fields that represent data bits upright instead of flat on the surface of the disk as is common with nearly all of today's drives. Standing the fields upright means they take up less space, enabling more data to be crammed on the disk.

The capacity boosts that Seagate promises will come first on the company's 2.5-inch disks for notebook PCs and 1-inch disks for portable electronics, and then with 3.5-inch disks for desktop PCs and servers, Charles Pope, the company's chief financial officer, said in a conference call announcing the company's year-end financial results.

The shift involves just about all the products the company makes, he said.

"Over the coming year, the vast majority of products shipping [from Seagate] ... will be using perpendicular technology," he said.

The announcement represents the clearest indication yet of a widespread shift to perpendicular recording by the hard-disk drive industry, and comes after earlier statements by Seagate that it intends to be a front-runner with the technology.

Major competitors Toshiba, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) and Fujitsu have all said they'll be using the technology in upcoming drives, but none has announced such a comprehensive shift in such a clear time frame.

In June, Seagate announced plans to ship a 160G-byte, 2.5-inch drive using perpendicular recording early next year. This put it ahead of announcements by HGST and Fujitsu about their plans for the technology for the same 2.5-inch form factor. HGST is field-testing the technology in 2.5-inch drives but has yet to say when it's going to sell them. Fujitsu will start selling 200G-byte, 2.5 inch disks using perpendicular recording technology in 2007, according to the company.

However, Seagate isn't the first company to actually ship drives that use perpendicular recording technology. Toshiba has just started shipping 40G-byte, 1.8-inch drives for its Gigabeat digital audio players that use the technology and 80G-byte versions are due soon according to Keisuke Ohmori, a spokesman for Toshiba in Tokyo.

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Paul Kallender

IDG News Service
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