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Perpendicular drives hit the market

Toshiba says it's first to commercially release industrywide innovation that greatly increases the amount of data a drive can hold.

Toshiba says it has become the first manufacturer to commercially release hard drives with perpendicular recording platters, an industrywide innovation that greatly increases the amount of data a drive can hold.

The MK4007GAL 1.8-inch drive packs 40GB on a single platter, which is the most for a 1.8-inch diameter hard drive platter to date. The platters can hold 206 megabits per square millimeter. The drive can be found in Toshiba's Gigabeat F41 music player. Toshiba also makes drives for Apple Computer's iPods.

Two configurations of the drive exist: a 40GB with one platter and a two-platter 80GB drive. Next year, the Japanese giant will insert perpendicular drives into its mini 0.85-inch diameter drives.

Perpendicular recording involves recording data in vertical, three-dimensional columns rather than in two dimensions on a plane. In a sense, this is akin to having people in a crowded city center move from single family homes to high rises. Although the shift to perpendicular recording methods greatly increases the amount of data that can be stored in a small space, it has forced the drive industry to put extra work into developing disk media, new heads and new electronics.

Toshiba's margin of victory will likely be short-lived. Every major manufacturer has announced plans for perpendicular drives. In June, Seagate unfurled a line of perpendicular drives that the company said would begin to ship later in the summer.

Hitachi also plans to come out with perpendicular drives this year, as well as an even more dense version of these types of drives in 2007.