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Tiny Toshiba drives to offer storage aplenty

New 10GB and 20GB drives will mean cavernous storage for a range of mobile-computing devices, including music players, PDAs and even laptops.

Toshiba is promising big things for small packages with a pair of new hard drives.

The diminutive 10GB and 20GB drives, announced Wednesday, will mean cavernous storage for a range of mobile-computing devices, including music players, personal digital assistants (PDAs), wearable computers and even laptops. Their capacities are well above those of most gadget-sized devices, including Apple Computer's new, well-endowed iPod, which uses a similar 5GB hard drive from Toshiba.

Based on the design of Toshiba's 2.5-inch notebook PC drives, the new 1.8-inch designs are smaller than a credit card in width and length. And at 5mm and 8mm thick, respectively, they are not that much chunkier than a credit card.

Most PDAs, such as Compaq Computer's iPaq, offer 16MB to 64MB of internal storage in the form of flash memory or RAM and also can use external memory, such as Sony's Memory Stick or IBM's 1-inch Microdrive, a tiny hard drive with capacities ranging from 170MB to 1GB that fits inside the CompactFlash ports in PDAs and other devices.

Larger hard drive-based music players and notebook PCs typically offer drives with capacities of 10GB to 40GB. New 60GB hard drives are just coming on the market for notebooks.

Toshiba says that its tiny new drives, with tens of gigabytes on hand, will support manufacturers' desires to add more complex applications or more storage space for music or photos to new products.

Apple, for example, could boost the capabilities of the PDA-sized iPod by moving to the new 10GB or 20GB drives.

Apple declined to comment on plans for the iPod, which currently can store up to 1,000 songs and can also be used as a portable hard drive to store other files.

The new drives from Toshiba's Storage Systems Division could roughly double and quadruple those figures for Apple, though actual storage figures will depend on a number of factors, including the kind of device each drive is used in.

Toshiba plans to begin shipping the 10GB drive, the MK1003GAL, in February and the 20GB unit, the MK2003GAH, in March. The company did not announce prices for the new drives.

News.com's Ian Fried contributed to this report.