IVDR removable hard disk drives to finally appear

A removable hard disk drive system first unveiled more than two years ago will see its commercial launch later this month. IO Data Device Inc., a Tokyo-based manufacturer of computer peripherals, will put on sale a drive and disk based on the IVDR (Information Versatile Disk for Removable usage) standard in late-April, it said Monday.

The IVDR standard has been developed by a consortium that currently includes 38 companies and is led by electronics industry heavyweights Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., in addition to Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Pioneer Corp., Sharp Corp. and Victor Co. of Japan Ltd. (JVC). Their goal was the development of a system that provides an easy way to transfer content between devices, in the same way a CD or DVD does, but which can keep track with the constant advances being made in data storage technology.

This is important because the quick pace of advance in storage technology is speeding the obsolescence of technology. There is a high probability that the capacity offered by a product bought today, such as a digital video recorder or digital music player, will fall well short of similar products that will be on sale in one or two years. Making the drive removable allows for an easier upgrade path and that should mean devices have a longer useful life.

The ever-increasing size of multimedia data also lends itself to such a system. When file sizes pass the 4.7G-byte capacity of a DVD there is often no alternative but to transfer a file using a network, but this can be fraught with problems and delays. Removing a disk from one device, such as a video recorder, and inserting it into another, such as a PC, can be accomplished in a matter of seconds and that makes it one of the fastest ways to transfer multigigabyte files between machines.

Consisting of little more than a hard disk drive in a case with a common interface and connector, engineers have been working on the concept for more than two years. Last year they unveiled IVDR Mini, which is based around 1.8-inch drives rather than the 2.5-inch drives originally shown and it's this smaller format that will be launched by IO Data later this month.

The company will put on sale a set comprising a 20G-byte IVDR Mini disk and an adapter that can be connected to a PC via a USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 interface. The set will cost ¥34,000 (AUD$424), IO Data said in a statement. Single disks of similar capacity will also be available priced at ¥24,000 (AUD$300).

The drive and bundled driver software will work on computers running Windows XP, 2000, Me, 98SE and Mac OS versions 9.x and 10.1 to 10.3.1. Users can run the drive from an AC adapter or via the power available from the USB bus. The drive measures 95 millimeters by 135 millimeters by 21.5 millimeters and weighs 120 grams and the disk weighs 70 grams.

With the format finally seeing its commercial launch this month, the next challenge for the consortium is to get a wider range of supporting products on sale to stimulate consumer demand. Fujitsu, Hitachi, Pioneer, Sharp, JVC and Sanyo are all leading manufacturers of consumer digital video camcorders, hard disk drive-based video recorders and televisions and products from those companies will likely need to be launched if IVDR is to achieve success in the very competitive consumer electronics marketplace.

There are also several big name consumer electronics companies, including Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp., which were once talked about as prospective members but have not been persuaded to join. The consortium's most recent boost came when Toyota Motor Corp. became a member.

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Martyn Williams

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