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IBM thinks small with 1GB hard drive for handhelds

Big Blue plans to ship a tiny 1GB hard drive for small handheld computer devices such as personal digital assistants and digital cameras.

IBM today said it plans to ship a tiny 1GB (gigabyte) hard drive for small handheld computer devices such as personal digital assistants and digital cameras.

Microdrives, as the new drives are called, will add triple storage capacity to devices and can hold up to 1,000 high-resolution photographs, a thousand 200-page novels or nearly 18 hours of high-quality digital music on a storage unit the size of a quarter, the company said in a statement.

Current capacity of the hard drives is 170MB or 340MB. The IBM Microdrive fits into Type II CompactFlash slots, so some digital cameras, such as the Canon PowerShot S20, can accommodate the Microdrive.

For perspective, that means the difference between a maximum of 16 high-resolution images on a 16MB CompactFlash card and almost 400 for the Microdrive. The Microdrive is also cheaper than the CompactFlash: A 128MB CompactFlash card costs about the same as--or more than--the 340MB Microdrive.

IBM said it would begin shipping limited quantities of the new hard drive, which will cost less than $500, to manufacturers next month. A retail release is scheduled for September.

The new drive also can serve as a data-exchange accessory to notebook computers, desktop computers and printers, the company said. IBM claims future applications may include wearable computers, electronic books, Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers used to guide automobile drivers, smart phones and electronic wallets.

Some of the customers that have designed or plan to design devices compatible with the new Microdrive include Acer, Casio Computer, Eastman Kodak, Fuji Photo Film, Hewlett-Packard, Minolta, Nikon and Sanyo Electric.