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Storage

Hard drives to accelerate into gadgets

A report predicts that one-third of all hard drives will be in consumer electronics devices by 2008.

Hard drives are racing into the world of consumer electronics, according to a report released Tuesday by research firm In-Stat/MDR.

The same day the hard drive-based Apple iPod got a face-lift, In-Stat/MDR predicted that consumer electronics products will account for about 33 percent of hard drives shipped in 2008, up from about 5 percent in 2003.

"As the PC market matures, and the amount of digital content available to the consumer and the desire to store it continues to increase, the number of devices integrating hard disk drives in consumers' homes will explode," the firm said in a statement.

Hard drives historically have made their homes in computers, such as desktop PCs and the higher-end machines found in corporate data centers. But in recent years, makers of consumer electronics devices such as personal video recorders and music players have been buying drives for their products. Often, the drives for consumer products are smaller than a typical desktop computer disk drive, which has a platter diameter of 3.5 inches.

Apple iPods use 1.8-inch drives, while the iPod Mini depends on a 1-inch drive. The latest version of the iPod boasts up to 60 gigabytes of capacity, which can store up to 15,000 songs or 25,000 photos.

A potentially huge market for disk drive makers is cell phones. But challenges loom in the phone arena, including competition from flash memory, a semiconductor-based storage technology.

In-Stat/MDR said the most notable consumer electronics products that use disk drives include several types of PVRs (personal video recorders, also known as digital video recorders), video game consoles, and portable digital audio players.

"However, there are a number of emerging markets, primarily mobile devices, which will also represent significant opportunities for storage providers in the coming years," the firm said.

In-Stat/MDR said consumer products, including personal digital assistants, Global Positioning System devices, digital cameras and mobile phones will begin to integrate "microdrives" and offer varying capacities.