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Seagate drive targets game consoles

The company announces a new hard-drive design aimed at consumer-electronics devices, including video game consoles and audio appliances.

Seagate Technology announced Monday a new hard-drive design aimed at consumer-electronics devices, including video game consoles and audio appliances.

The U Series X drive includes a number of advances such as a quieter motor and a thinner profile that will improve cooling efficiency in devices using the drive.

Target markets include home digital audio components, networked copiers, digital printers, routers and game consoles. The drive will come in a standard 20GB, 3.5-inch-wide configuration, although Seagate will produce a 10GB version for the Xbox.

David Reinsel, an analyst for research firm IDC, said the annual market for 3.5-inch hard drives in consumer-electronics products is expected to grow to 60 million units by 2006, although the new Seagate drive will be locked out of a number of those markets because of its scaled-down design.

Hard drives for digital video recorders such as TiVo will require greater capacity than the single read-write head in the U Series X can accommodate, and manufacturers of home audio devices may chafe at the 20GB constriction. Seagate already makes higher-capacity drives for those segments of the consumer-electronics market, however.

"I think the game consoles are probably their biggest market, and it's not a bad market to target," Reinsel said. "If Sony and Nintendo decide to integrate a hard drive in the future, they're going to be looking at low capacity and low price points, and this really comes in there."

The Xbox is the first game console to come with a built-in hard drive. Microsoft has used hard drives from Seagate and competitor Western Digital for the console. Microsoft representatives could not be reached to say when the new Seagate drives would begin appearing in consoles or if Seagate would become the exclusive hard drive supplier for the console.

Sony is developing an add-on hard drive for its market-leading PlayStation 2 console, while Nintendo has not revealed any plans for a GameCube hard drive.

The U Series X's quieter motor produces only 2.6 bels of noise. "It's right on the human threshold of hearing," said Mark Walker, product marketing manager for Seagate.

The drives will begin shipping in volume in mid-July, Walker said. He declined to specify pricing for the drives.