Smaller, faster disk drives on the way this year

Smaller hard disk drives, faster drives and the opening up of the market for disk drives in consumer electronics devices will be among the key industry milestones in 2003, according to the International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association (IDEMA).

In a forecast for the disk drive market in 2003, IDEMA outlined several advances, including:

-- introduction of 1.0-inch drives capable of storing 4.7G bytes, equivalent to a full DVD-quality movie

-- desktop drives will complete the migration to 7,200 rpm (revolutions per minute) from 5,400 rpm

-- migration to the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (S-ATA) interface will begin this year and the interface will become dominant over the next few years

-- notebook computers will continue to move to the 1.8-inch disk drive format in low-power, lightweight devices

-- drives in enterprise systems will accelerate their move to 15,000 rpm technology as new manufacturers enter the market

The business environment is also picking up, with recovery in 2002 after a disastrous 2001, according to IDEMA. One major new opportunity is the consumer electronics market as typified by the new generation of personal video recorders (PVRs) with inbuilt disk drives.

Over 12 million disk drives were shipped to consumer electronics manufacturers in 2002, and this figure is expected to rise to 30 million units in 2003 and 50 million in 2004, according to IDEMA figures. Much of the demand will come from he advent of DVD-RAM/HDD PVR boxes, which should hit the U.S. markets in 2003, IDEMA said.

And while prices continued to fall, reduced volatility in pricing was helping manufacturers, a trend which should continue through 2003, IDEMA said.

There are now seven major manufacturers following the buyout of IBM Corp.'s drive business by Hitachi Ltd., with Seagate Technology Inc. and Maxtor Corp. between them holding just over half of the market in 2002, according to IDEMA figures.