Hitachi's higher capacity Microdrive due in Q4

Hitachi is on schedule to launch an 8GB version of its Microdrive 1-inch hard disk drive in the fourth quarter of this year.

Hitachi Global Storage Technology is planning to launch a higher-capacity version of its Microdrive 1-inch hard-disk drive in the fourth quarter of this year, a company representative said Thursday at Computex in Taipei.

The company outlined plans for larger capacity drives during the CES show in Las Vegas in January this year, and at the time said it would launch a drive with a capacity of between 8G bytes and 10G bytes before the end of the year.

Development work on the new drive is progressing and has reached the stage where the 8G byte version is fairly stable, said David Chen, a field application engineer at the company's Taiwan branch. Samples of this drive should be available to the company's customers in the third quarter of the year with mass production following early in the fourth quarter, he said.

Engineers are still working on getting the 10G-byte drive working. Chen was unable to say whether this product will be ready before the end of the year.

The new drive will also be slightly smaller. Hitachi will replace the Compact Flash connector used on current Microdrives with a ZIF (zero insertion force) connector. ZIF connectors are favored by consumer electronics makers and will lead to a cut of about 20 percent in the drive's volume.

The 1-inch hard-disk drive market has become more competitive recently as greater numbers of companies have been looking to use the drives in products including digital music players, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants and other portable electronics products. Hitachi faces competition from several companies in the market, and storage capacity is one of the most important specifications of the drives.

Looking further ahead, Hitachi is working on a new data-recording method called perpendicular recording. In current drives, the magnetic fields storing data on the disk surface run parallel to the disc, but in the new method they are arranged perpendicular to the disc. Because they are standing on end, they take up less space on the disk and so more of them can be accommodated, leading to a higher data capacity.

Hitachi's first drives based on perpendicular recording are due this year but the technology won't immediately be used in the Microdrive family. When it is used in Microdrives, it will mean a capacity of around 20G bytes, said Chen.