Cornice to offer small hard drive with 3GB capacity

Hard-disk drive maker Cornice will release in early 2005 a new version of its 1-inch "Storage Element" drive for consumer electronics products.

The 3G-byte drive will offer more capacity than existing models and better protection against drops and other impacts. It will be officially unveiled at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in early January, the company said on Saturday.

At present, Cornice offers its drive in 1G-byte, 1.5G-byte and 2G-byte capacities. Its customers include major names in electronics such as Sony and Philips Electronics, which use the drives in digital music players, and Samsung Electronics, which uses the drive in a cell phone.

In addition to the higher capacity, the drive will also feature a small latch to keep the read/write-head arm in place when not in use. Impacts between this head and the disc surface often occur when a drive is dropped and can lead to loss of data or render the drive unusable. Cornice calls the latch system a "crash guard" and says it's much better at protecting the drive than existing methods that it and other companies have employed to date.

"Until this point, if you took a traditional drive from your laptop and did extreme sports, you'd get problems," said David Feller, vice president of marketing at Cornice. Traditional hard drives don't have the protection to survive some of the bangs and bashes that are more common in the consumer electronics market than the personal computer market, he said.

"This is brand new," he said. "In the past we and all our competitors had to ask designers to do special things, like round the corners of the device or put rubber on the outside, but with this they don't have to worry about dropping the drive."

Sample production of the drive began in October and the company expects to begin commercial production in the middle of the first calendar quarter, said Feller.

"We have a number of customers lined up," he said without naming them. "You will see a number of products and CES or up-to (German electronics show) Cebit launching with 3G-byte capacity."

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