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Tiny Hitachi drive hits 4GB

The 1-inch Microdrive gives Hitachi Global Storage Technologies a new entry in the stakes for miniature storage formats used in computers, handhelds and digital cameras.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies is delivering a tiny 4GB hard drive to electronic device manufacturers for testing.

The 4GB Microdrive, a miniaturized version of a hard drive used in PCs, can be used by a wide range of devices to store data files for computers or image files for digital cameras, among other uses, the company said. The San Jose, Calif., hard-drive maker is offering samples now and plans to ship the 1-inch drive in volume in November.

Derived from technology gained when Hitachi purchased IBM's hard drive business and formed a new joint venture, the Microdrive gives Hitachi Global Storage Technologies an avenue to compete with several miniature storage formats used in computers, handhelds, digital cameras and other electronics devices.

The Microdrive will take on flash memory products such as Compact Flash cards or Sony's Memory Stick and will also bolster Hitachi Global Storage Technologies' position against forthcoming storage devices, such as Iomega's 1.5GB Digital Capture Technology removable hard drive.

The Hitachi unit says that the benefits of the new Microdrive over flash and other storage methods are a speedy data transfer rate and a relatively low price.

The company expects the 4GB Microdrive to sell for $499. Lexar Media sells 2GB and 4GB flash memory cards that cost as much as $799 and $1,599, respectively, according to its online store.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies will also offer a 2GB version of the Microdrive starting later this year. Like past versions, the new Microdrives will fit into a standard, Compact Flash Type II slot, allowing them to be used by devices that can accept memory cards and other add-ons that use the format. The company will continue to sell a 1GB Microdrive as well.

Companies that are evaluating the 4GB drive--some of which already use the 1GB model--include Blaupunkt, Eastman Kodak, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Sigma and Sony.