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Fujitsu announces new laptop drive

The hard-drive maker introduces a 2.5-inch model with the Serial ATA interface, saying it is suited for notebook computers, corporate storage devices and consumer-electronics products.

In a bid to grab a larger share of the growing laptop computer market, Fujitsu Computer Products of America announced on Monday a 2.5-inch disk drive with the Serial ATA interface.

Fujitsu said its MHT-BH product was designed to work in notebook computers but is also suited for corporate storage devices and consumer-electronic products. Examples of the drive will be available for testing by manufacturers in April, according to the company. Fujitsu expects laptop computers built with the drive to reach consumers by the fourth quarter of the year.

By using the Serial ATA (SATA) interface as opposed to the "parallel" ATA interface now used in notebook drives, Fujitsu said it has shrunk the overall size of a drive unit significantly. What's more, said Joel Hagberg, vice president of marketing at Fujitsu Computer Products of America, the interface allows for a smaller motherboard. "This will enable a smaller laptop design," he said.

Laptop computers typically use disk drives with platters that are 2.5 inches in diameter, rather than the 3.5-inch platters common in desktop machines. Demand for drives in laptop computers is healthy. Last year, research firm TrendFocus predicted the number of notebook computers shipped would jump 20.2 percent in 2003, to 39.8 million.

Fujitsu faces competition in the mobile drive market from Hitachi, Toshiba and Seagate.

SATA is relatively new technology for connecting drives with computers. It's one of a host of such "serial" technologies in computers that are replacing the older "parallel" design, which runs into speed limits because of difficulties synchronizing electrical signals across a large number of wires.

Besides offering the possibility of smaller machines, Fujitsu's new SATA drives promise a "hot-plug" feature--meaning a computer user can insert a drive into a bay while a machine is running.

The drives also offer "native command queuing," according to Fujitsu. That's a feature allowing a drive to reorder instructions it receives to improve performance.

Fujitsu expects the 2.5-inch SATA drives may find their way into the dedicated storage devices that are used in corporate data centers. In particular, Hagberg said, the drives are suited for so-called "nearline" storage, referring to equipment that may hold an organization's older, less-critical data.

The new drives also are a good candidate for consumer-electronics devices, such as automotive systems that may store MP3 files or video, Hagberg said.

The drives will come in capacities of 40GB, 60GB and 80GB.