Cornice Aims Forthcoming Mini Storage at Consumer Apps

A Colorado-based startup garners consumer electronics attention with a low-power, high-capacity, inexpensive mini drives.

In a tech arena increasingly flooded with consumer electronics gadgets, storage plays a significant role in how much various devices cost. So its no surprise that startup Cornice, Inc. is targeting mini, high-capacity storage as the centerpiece of its business. Its first product, the Cornice Storage Element (see the photo) is a half-cubic-inch, 1.5-GB drive that can store about 30 CDs worth of music, or about two hours of MPEG video. The drive is about half the size of a business card. A number of consumer electronics companies have announced products based on the drive.

Cornice is not, exactly, new to the storage arena, the company features a management team made up of several storage industry veterans, and has venture capital behind it from Nokia and other partners.

The Cornice Storage Elements design is focused on minimizing the number of electrical components in the drive to, ultimately, lower costs. The drive has 31 electrical components, according to a Cornice white paper, as opposed to upwards of 110 in competitive devices. "While flash costs 18 cents per megabyte and a mini-drive from a competitor 15 cents per megabyte, the Cornice SE costs four cents a megabyte," claims a white paper from the company. Cornice has been shooting to keep volume pricing of its drives at about $65 instead of the $200 or so for competitive drives. IBMs MicroDrives are among the chief competitive units.

"Cornices unique approach to its portable storage design offers a variety of strategic and compelling benefits to electronic device manufacturers," said Dave Reinsel, research manager at IDC, who cites low cost, high capacity and low power consumption as the chief advantages. "We commend Cornice for tackling the problems that face the cost-versus-capacity issues that are critical to the design of handheld devices," said Gerry Purdy, principal analyst at MobileTrax.

Cornices drives will be showing up in a number of upcoming MP3 players focused on the value end of the MP3 player arena. Rios Nitrus Urban and Rio Eigen Executive digital audio players will contain the Cornice Storage Element, and the players will store approximately 600 songs. The Urban will be priced at $299.99 and the Executive model—with a few extra features—will be priced at $329.99. The players will use USB 2.0 for music transfers.

"Incorporating Cornices innovative Storage Element technology allowed us to create tiny players with huge storage capabilities," said Kevin Brangan, Rio vice president, in a statement. Cornice is eyeing several other kinds of consumer electronics devices for its drives—from GPS units to combination camcorder/MP3 players. The Samsung Gadget camcorder, which got a lot of attention at this years Consumer Electronics Show features one of Cornices drives. RCAs Lyra Microjukebox—also shown at CES—has one of the drives too. DigitalWay and iRiver are among other companies aiming to make use of Cornices drives.

The microdrives, flash devices, and hard drives markets witness a continuous game of leapfrogging capacities and diminishing prices, but Cornices entry into this busy market is, according to principals, marked by a laser-like focus on low-cost, high-capacity storage for the consumer electronics market.

We focused on the value proposition first," said Kevin Magenis, president and CEO of Cornice, in a phone interview with PC Magazine.