Hitachi slashes Microdrive prices, debuts 6GB model

The new drive will cost $299

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc. (HGST) has begun shipping a new version of its 1-in. Microdrive, a hard disk drive that can hold 50% more data than HGST's current highest-capacity model.

The new 6GB version of the drive is notable not just for its higher capacity but also because it marks a shift in HGST's pricing for the diminutive drive family. The new drive will cost $299, which is 40% less than the $499 price tag that HGST has placed on new Microdrive products in the past, said Bill Healy, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing at HGST. The company is also lowering the price of its 4GB Microdrive to $199.

Customers who buy HGST's drives in bulk for use in their own products have been enjoying regular price cuts for some time, said Healy. HGST's customers include Apple Computer Inc., which uses the 4GB Microdrive in its iPod Mini music player and today announced a 6GB version of the player (see story).

The higher-capacity drive and lower prices will likely increase competition in the market for small hard disk drives. HGST competes against several companies, including Seagate Technologies Inc., Cornice Inc. and China's GS Magicstor Inc. And yesterday, Fujitsu Ltd. said that it is considering entering the market.

At present, these companies are largely chasing business from manufacturers of portable audio players, like the iPod. The market for such devices was estimated to be about 12 million units in 2004 and will be about 35 million in 2008, according to a December report from IDC.

"We're aiming for the music player market," said Healy. "We hope to bring [the Microdrive] to newer applications like cell phones in the [2006] time frame."

It was possible to offer increased capacity in the new drive because HGST is packing data more tightly on the disk's surface. The new drive's areal density, which is the standard measure for disk drives, is 78Gb of data per square inch compared with 56.5Gb per square inch in the current 4GB drive, the company said.

At January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, HGST announced plans to introduce a Microdrive with even more capacity in the second half of this year. That drive will offer between 8GB and 10GB of capacity, and instead of a Compact Flash interface, it will have a ZIF (zero insertion force) connector of the type favored by consumer electronics makers.

HGST confirmed that those plans remain on track with the launch of the 6GB drive, which it said fills a spot in the product line between the current 4GB model and the higher-capacity versions coming later this year.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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