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Toshiba has bigger plans for small drives

The company plans to double production of its 1.8-inch hard drives, to 600,000 units per month by March 2004.

Toshiba said on Tuesday that it plans to double production of its 1.8-inch hard drives, to 600,000 units per month by March 2004.

The company also said that to date it has produced 3 million of its 1.8-inch drives, which are used in Apple Computer's popular iPod music player and other products.

"This (increased) production, along with the drive's tremendous advantages in size, weight, low power consumption and overall performance, ensures that Toshiba's 1.8-inch HDD (hard disk drive) will continue to be a winner in the market for mobile digital products," Amy Dalphy, manager of the hard drive unit at Toshiba's Storage Device Division, said in a statement.

Toshiba's announcements are additional signs that smaller-size hard drives are becoming increasingly popular in consumer electronics. Drives smaller than the standard desktop computer size of 3.5 inches can be used in products such as digital cameras, portable handheld GPS units and digital music players.

Dell recently introduced an MP3 player based on a 1.8-inch hard drive made by Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

Research firm IDC expects the number of hard drives shipped in portable MP3 players to hit 1.8 million this year, up from 900,000 last year. In 2004, it expects the number to climb to 2.4 million. Toshiba estimates the market for 1.8-inch hard-disk drives will rise to 70 million in 2010.

A burgeoning consumer electronics market for hard drives is one reason the hard-drive industry is enjoying a sunny outlook.

Mass production of Toshiba's 1.8-inch hard drives began in 2000 with a removable 1.8-inch drive product capable of holding 2GB. Since then, Toshiba has introduced 1.8-inch drives with larger capacities, including embedded drives that hold from 5GB to 40GB.

Those drives are used in products such as handheld computers, MP3 players and automotive jukebox systems, Toshiba said.

The company said its increased production target includes in-house drive-making and outsourced manufacturing by Matsushita Kotobuki Electronics Industries.