IBMs 1GB microdrive is poised to fatten the skinny storage resources of portable devices, opening the door to new multimedia applications and allowing PDAs to handle scads more personal data.
This is good news for more than just the MP3 crowd: Corporate storage managers would do well to take a hard look at high-capacity portable storage options for a couple of reasons.
For starters, it might not be overkill to put 1GB of storage in a PDA in the near future. As these devices take on resource-intensive applications, higher capacity will have a significant impact in corporate devices.
Currently, these devices come with a max of 64MB of on-board storage, which is insufficient for multimedia. Who wants an MP3 player that plays less than an hour of music or a camera that takes only a dozen photos?
Second, although a fleet of PDAs with the $360 Microdrive installed might be too expensive for most organizations now, competition will eventually drive that price down. In some circumstances, the Microdrives price is already competitive with flash memory.
The Microdrive matches Compact Flash cards in size (about 1 square inch) and supports standard CF- and ATA/PCMCIA-compatible interfaces.
The Microdrive uses IBMs AFC (antiferromagnetically coupled) media, also called “pixie dust,” to attain this high capacity. In an AFC drive, multiple layers of magnetically opposed media are joined together by several atomic layers of ruthenium, which allow previously unattainable storage densities of 20GB to 40GB per square inch.
The 1GB Microdrive also runs more slowly (at 3,600 rpm) than its 4,500-rpm predecessors to reduce power consumption, and caching content in RAM can further boost performance while also saving power.
Of course, IBM isnt alone in its quest to make the Microdrive the leader in portable storage media. Compact Flash media vendors will release cards in the gigabyte range this year; Toshiba and SanDisk jointly announced the 1GB flash memory chip in November.
The 1GB Microdrive paves the way for more affordable portable storage by forcing other vendors to offer bigger, less expensive products. Todays PDAs might not justify high-capacity portable storage in the corporate world, but tomorrows must-have apps surely will.
What do you want your pocket device to store on board? Let me know at francis_ email@example.com.