Notebook: Scaled-Down Diskcon Centers on CE

Consumer electronics draw the most interest at the show, along with small-form-factor storage and phones equipped with hard drives.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—The Diskcon show here was all about small: small devices, small attendance, small profits.

Changes in this industry arrive slowly, and some attendees grumbled that its time to starting holding the show once every two years instead. Last year, the show was held in the San Jose Fairmont and Convention Center, and the layout of the rooms at least gave the show a semblance of life.

The relatively small Santa Clara Convention Center seemed positively cavernous compared with the size of the show, and the organizers roped off several sections of the auditorium to try to compress the crowd.

The exceptions were the panels on consumer electronics and small-form-factor storage, which actually generated some excitement. Note that the CE and SFF boom occurred last year, but the current relapse into cutthroat pricing practices has triggered a relapse of the red-ink flu that the industry has typically suffered from.

/zimages/3/28571.gifAnalysts at Diskcon said the disk drive industry is now ripe for mergers. Click here to read more.

One of the more interesting presentations was by Kenji Taima, senior research manager at Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. and a member of the iVDR Consortium, which is an industrywide project to embed removable hard drives in a number of consumer devices.

Its unclear whether a company-agnostic specification will actually succeed in a world dominated by proprietary formats—such as the small-form-factor flash market, for example—but the technology is already available from one supplier, even if no CE maker has designed a bay for it yet.

Taima said the consortium has tentatively added an iVDR "micro" to house a 1-inch drive, in addition to the 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch iVDRs the consortium has already approved. Content-protection mechanisms have already been approved.

The addition of the micro iVDR is an "experiment," Taima said. Although Taima did not offer a timetable for broad adoption of the iVDR standard, the consortium has grown from eight to 57 companies. Even if the iVDR standard is not adopted, its likely that manufacturers of televisions will embed hard drives within the chassis.

And even if the television makers dont design in full PVR functionality, its likely that users will have the option of pausing live TV and perhaps rewinding a broadcast to the beginning, said David Barron, product-line director of digital entertainment at Maxtor Corp.

Next Page: Has Apple signed on to use the CE-ATA interface?