Seagate plans 12GB cell-phone drive in Q3

Seagate Technology will begin shipping in the third quarter of this year a higher capacity version of its hard-disk drive for cell phones, it said Monday.

Seagate Technology will begin shipping a higher capacity version of its hard-disk drive for cell phones in the third quarter of this year, the company said Monday, as the 3GSM exhibition opened in Barcelona.

The new drive will have a capacity of 12G bytes, which is a 50 percent increase on its current highest capacity 1-inch drive. Such drives are typically used in cell phones and digital music players. In addition to increased capacity there are three other main improvements offered by the new drive: it consumes almost a third less power than current models, has higher operational shock resistance and is physically smaller.

"We've made it 23 percent smaller by moving from a Compact Flash form factor into a smaller package, which eliminates some of the connector and packaging," said Brodie Keast, senior vice president and general manager of Seagate's consumer electronics business, in a telephone interview.

To get the higher capacity Seagate will turn to a technology called perpendicular recording. Hard-disk drives store data by magnetically charging particles on the drive's surface. In almost all current drives the charge runs parallel to the surface of the disc but perpendicular recording involves the charges being stood on end, running perpendicular to the disk surface. This means they occupy a smaller space and so more can be crammed onto the disc thus increasing the capacity.

The technology is just starting to be introduced by hard-disk drive makers and is coming at a time when conventional parallel recording methods are starting to reach their limits.

Seagate said the new drive will be available in the third quarter but didn't detail pricing. However Keast said the price-per-gigabyte would be lower compared to the company's current 8G-byte drive.

Seagate is one of a number of companies racing after the cell phone market with hard-disk drives. Another company, Cornice, will launch 8G byte and 10G byte versions of its 1-inch drive during the current quarter. Cornice, which has already seen its drives used in handsets from Samsung Electronics Co., expects about 72 million cell phones with embedded drives will be shipped in 2009 out of a global total of around 1 billion handsets.

The 3GSM World Congress 2006 runs from Monday until Thursday in Barcelona, Spain.

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Martyn Williams

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