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IBM's new notebook drives emphasize quiet

Big Blue launches a new line of Travelstar hard drives for notebooks that the company claims are the world's quietest.

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Big Blue's silent weapon
David Uriu, disk drive director, IBM
In IBM's hard drive division, silence is golden.

Big Blue on Tuesday launched a new line of Travelstar hard drives for notebooks that the company claims are the world's quietest. Among other sound-reduction features, the new 48GB Travelstar is fitted with sound-dampening padding to reduce excess vibration. New microcode also allows the arm of the disk to travel more smoothly over contours.

The disk's platters also spin on a bed of liquid rather than on ball bearings.

"If you think of this as a lazy Susan, what we are doing is replacing the lazy Susan with liquid, which eliminates the metal to metal noise," said David Uriu, director of marketing for 2.5-inch disk drives at IBM.

Many of these individual technologies have been featured in other drives, but never in combination together, Uriu added. Along with being quiet, the drive spins at 5,400 rpm, making it the fastest mobile hard drive to date.

It's also the largest capacity drive produced for notebooks, capable of holding 48,000 novels, or 12 DVD movies. One-upmanship over disk speed and size, however, is common in the disk industry.

IBM has long positioned itself as the Cadillac of microcomponents, producing computing parts that pack more technological innovations than products rivals. The company's semiconductor division, for instance, is known for state-of-the-art innovations. It produced the first chips in volume to use copper wires, rather than aluminum.

The emphasis on technology, to a certain degree, has helped IBM stay competitive in one of the most cutthroat segments of the industry. In 2000, IBM's hard drive revenue stopped contracting and grew, according to the company's annual financial conference call. The company captured 41 percent of the notebook drive market in 2000, according to figures from IDC.

Last year, the hard drive division of Seagate Technologies was acquired by a private investment group; Maxtor purchased rival Quantum.

The new drives will appear in the second quarter in notebooks from Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, the company said.