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Western debuts 27GB hard drive

The company unveils new high-performance hard disk drives amidst lingering aftereffects of bruising competition in the storage market.

Western Digital is debuting a new high-performance hard disk drive for desktop computers that can store up to 27.2 gigabytes of information amidst lingering aftereffects of bruising competition in the storage market.

Western Digital, the third-largest computer disk-drive maker, is continuing to benefit from its relationship with IBM, which is supplying the drive heads in Western's drives, but its financial results have yet to rebound.

The company said the new drives can store up to 6.8GB per platter, which is the magnetic-coated disk that stores data. The top-line WD Expert has four platters and can access data at an average of 33 percent faster over currently prevalent hard disk drives by spinning the platters faster, the company claimed.

What's driving the need for increased storage capacities are things like video content creation, which requires the storage of huge amounts of data, said Western Digital executive vice president Matt Massengill. Massengill said that the new drives can store up to 20 hours of MPEG-2 video, a common compression format used in broadcast-quality production.

The Expert drives are the second round of products from Western to use IBM technology, which has helped keep Western apace of the storage field where it once lagged the storage capacity of competitors such as Seagate.

Keeping on top of the market hasn't yet translated to better bottom-line results, however. For the fiscal third-quarter ended March 27, the company's loss widened to $61.3 million from year ago results. Revenues are on the decline too.

Sales of the new drives won't show up for a while, either. Evaluation units and volume production of the WD Expert 27.2 GB is expected to start in the summer of 1999. Estimated street price of the drive is estimated to be $399. A slower version of the drive that stores 20.5GB, called the Caviar, will be available in volume starting in July with an estimated street of $349, the company said.