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Coming soon: A notebook with a terabyte

Hitachi's got a 2.5-inch drive that can pack 500GB, and Asus is going to put a pair into a notebook PC.

It's the notebook for neurotics.

Asus, the Taiwanese computer maker, will come out with a notebook that sports two 500GB hard drives from Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. Combined, this will give a fully configured Asus M70 notebook a terabyte of storage.

Put another way, the notebook will be capable of storing 1,000 hours of video, or more than 350 feature length movies, or 250,000 four-minute songs. That will probably tide you over for even the worst airport layovers. A terabyte also holds about the same amount of data that could be stored on the paper from 50,000 trees.

Asus will also release notebooks with a single 500GB drive.

Hitachi Travelstar 5K500
Behold the Hitachi Travelstar 5K500. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies

Hitachi's Travelstar 5K500 drive, coming in February, is the highest-capacity 2.5-inch drive to date, according to Hitachi. The drive, like most cutting-edge hard drives being made these days, features perpendicular recording, which allows more data per square inch than conventional drives.

Hitachi will also come out with a 400GB version in the first quarter. These drives record data on three platters. The prices on the drives and the notebooks were not revealed.

A related drive, the Travelstar E5K500, is due by the end of the second quarter, also in both 400GB and 500GB versions. The "E" in the model number apparently stands for "enhanced availability"--this drive is intended for lower-transaction environments working round-the-clock, including blade servers, network routers, point-of-sale terminals and video surveillance systems. Clarification: We were initially unclear on the drive that's due in Q2. As noted in this paragraph, it's the E5K500.

A few years ago, a terabyte of storage was an astronomical amount of storage. Sony showed off a home storage device at Ceatec in Japan in 2004 with a terabyte of storage. The unit cost about $5,000.

Hard-drive manufacturers, however, have managed to double the amount of storage on their drives about every two years. (During the late 1990s, they were doubling storage capacity annually.) Thus, the astronomical becomes conventional pretty quickly. Desktop terabyte drives with larger 3.5-inch-diameter platters started appearing last year. (Hitachi came out with the first.) These drives sell for around $400.

Analysts and self-employed experts often scoff at the increase in storage, claiming customers won't need more storage. Drive execs, however, note that the public continues to gobble up as many gigabytes as they can shovel out the door. The advent of high-definition video and digital video recorders has been a boon for hard-drive makers.

Some drive makers, notably Seagate Technology and Western Digital, are even making money, which can be rare in this business. (Hitachi, which bought IBM's drive business, often loses money and is looking at ways to sell of its hard drive division.)

Casinos are also big consumers of drives, according to hard-drive execs. What do you think they store all that surveillance video on?