IBM Laptops to Get Faster Hard Drives

IBM will use Hitachi's new Travelstar 7K60 drive, which spins up to 7,200 RPM, in its ThinkPad laptops.

Laptops with faster hard drives will be available this summer from IBM and other companies, officials of drive maker Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc. said this week.

Most mobile 2.5-inch drives spin their media at 5,400 revolutions per minute, but Hitachis newest units go up to 7,200 RPM, thereby improving read/write and seek times.

IBM will use the new Travelstar 7K60 drive in ThinkPad laptops, said officials in Armonk, N.Y. Unspecified other major computer vendors will announce the drive "over the next few months," said Bill Healy, general manager of the San Jose, Calif.-based Hitachi GST, of which IBMs an investor.

What kept prior mobile drives from reaching the 7,200 RPM speed, typically associated with desktop computers, were obstacles in power consumption, sound levels and weight, said Rocky Bolasna, manager of air bearing and fly-height technology.

Key to achieving the new speed within environmental bounds is femto-scale slider technology, Bolasna said. Sliders are the mechanisms at the tip of drive suspension arms, holding read/write heads on one side and airfoils on the other, he explained.

Femto technically means 10-15 scale, but Hitachi uses it generically to mean sixth-generation, starting in 1980 with mini-, micro-, positive pressure nano-, negative pressure nano-, and pico- designs, officials said. The next generation will be called atto-, officials said.

Femto technology will also be in the 4GB Microdrive this fall, and will be in server drives by 2005, Healy added.

"Those who want the ultimate latest and greatest will be the buyers," with mainstream acceptance still a year or two in the future, said Jim Porter, analyst and president of Disk/Trend Inc., in Mountain View, Calif. "We keep moving up as the industry figures out how to do these things and not charge more money for it. The disk drive industry moves faster than Moores Law," he said.

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