Toshiba Adds Big Thinkers for Mini Drives

The company announces the addition of a new design team, from Panasonic, to its hard drive operation.

Toshiba is thinking big when it comes to little hard drives.

The company, which has made a name for itself supplying miniature hard drives for notebooks and music players, on Thursday acquired Panasonic Shikoku Electronics HDD (hard disk drive) design center in Fremont, Calif. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Toshiba Corp. will turn to the design center, which had performed work for it on a contract basis for more than two years, to help bolster its in-house design resources for future generations of hard drives that are less expensive and that offer higher capacities.

The group of about 50 engineers may also assist Toshiba customers, including PC makers and consumer electronics companies, in building the drives into their products, ultimately boosting demand for the tiny storage devices, said Scott Maccabe, general manager of Toshibas Storage Device Division, part of Toshiba America Information Systems, Toshibas U.S. unit.

"From a bigger picture perspective, Toshiba is absolutely committed to driving and leading the small form factor [hard drive] space. That race is getting more aggressive, and we have limited resources available to us in Japan. The prior relationship we had with this organization [and] their proven skill set fit into our total business equation," Maccabe said.

The use of miniature drives—Toshibas measure between 0.85 inches and 1.8 inches, versus typical 2.5-inch notebook drives and 3.5-inch desktop drives—has exploded of late.

Their smaller sizes have helped PC makers design smaller, thinner notebooks for corporate travelers and also brought new types of devices.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about Toshiba recalling more than 25 of its notebook models after a problem with a memory module.

One of the best-known uses of the miniature drives is in music players, such as Apple Computer Inc.s iPod.

However, Toshiba foresees business uses for the drives in cellular phones and even PDAs.

Its 0.85-inch, 4GB drive is being qualified for use in cellular phones, for example, promising to give handsets much higher data storage capacity for things like corporate e-mail or pictures. The drive is due out at midyear.

Aside from designing less costly, higher-capacity miniature drives, Toshiba also aims to add its PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) technology to the mini-drive line, Maccabe said.

Its first PMR drive, a 1.8-inch model, is slated to ship later this quarter. The technology is expected to yield major increases in drive capacity over the next several years.

Hitachi and Fujitsu, meanwhile, have beefed up their respective 2.5-inch notebook drive lines.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies rolled out speedier 2.5-inch Travelstar 7K100 drives for notebooks.

The line adds 80GB and 100GB drives that rotate at 7,200 rpms, versus 5,400 rpms.

The faster rotational speed allows for quicker access to data, Hitachi said in a statement.

The company says that speed bump helps improve the speed at which Windows XP starts up, applications load and files copy over slower drives.

Fujitsu Computer Products of America on Thursday introduced a new family of 2.5-inch Serial ATA interface drive for notebooks.

The drives come in capacities ranging from 40GB to 100GB and rotate at 5,400 rpms, the company said in a statement.

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