WPCE - Toshiba debuts Bluetooth hard drive for PDAs

Toshiba has married its card-size hard disk drive with Bluetooth wireless technology to come up with a portable storage device aimed at PDA (personal digital assistant) users who need large-capacity storage. The Hopbit will be publicly unveiled at the World PC Expo show that runs in Tokyo from next Wednesday, Toshiba said.

The device contains a 5G-byte version of one of Toshiba's 1.8-inch hard disk drives and offers about 80 times the memory storage space offered by Toshiba:s Genio 550 PDA and 10 times the capacity of the largest memory card on the market. It will hold around 1,000 average-length MP3 audio tracks, 3,000 digital images from a 3-megapixel camera or 37 hours of MPEG4 video encoded at 320 by 240 pixels and 15 frames per second, said Toshiba.

A Bluetooth transceiver embedded in the Hopbit means it can be accessed from the PDA and also from other devices equipped with Bluetooth, such as desktop PCs. Bluetooth's device-linking function and proprietary software should ensure that data remains accessible only by approved users, said Toshiba.

The Hopbit B105H will go on sale in Japan from Nov. 1 and will cost ¥50,000 (US$410) making it an attractive option for PDA or mobile PC users that want extra storage space at a low cost. A similar investment in SD (Secure Digital) memory cards would buy around 768k bytes of storage, or around one-seventh the space offered by the Hopbit.

The device measures 110 millimeters by 70 millimeters by 22 millimeters and weighs 180 grams. A rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery should allow the Hopbit to run in standby for around 200 hours or in operation for six hours off a single charge.

Toshiba has no plans at present to put the Hopbit on sale overseas although the company will consider such sales should it be a success in the Japan market, said Midori Suzuki, a Toshiba spokeswoman.

World PC Expo, Japan's largest PC exhibition, runs from Oct. 16 to 19 at Tokyo Big Sight. More information can be found online at http://arena.nikkeibp.co.jp/expo/ .