Hitachi readies drives, both big and small

The company announces a 300GB drive and its plans to unveil 2.5-inch drives for the corporate market.

Ed Frauenheim Former Staff Writer, News
Ed Frauenheim covers employment trends, specializing in outsourcing, training and pay issues.
Ed Frauenheim
3 min read
Hitachi announced on Wednesday a roomy 300GB disk drive and its plans to unveil a 2.5-inch drive for the corporate market.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, the unit founded last January through the combination of Hitachi's and IBM's hard drive businesses, said the 300GB drive is designed to handle tasks such as online transaction processing, data analysis and media streaming. Hitachi also said that next week it will demonstrate 2.5-inch drives similar to products unveiled by rivals Seagate Technology and Fujitsu.

John Monroe, analyst at market research firm Gartner, gave Hitachi high marks for the way it has handled the IBM takeover. "They've managed the merger in impressive ways during their first year," Monroe said. "They've done much better with the enterprise group than I expected them to."

Monroe said IBM's enterprise hard drive division had lost market share for two years.

But Hitachi GST said that it earned $105 million in operating profit in the fourth quarter of 2003, and that it ended 2003 with $4.2 billion in revenue.

Despite Hitachi's focus Wednesday on the enterprise market, the company is making a strong push into the consumer electronics realm. Hard drives are becoming a popular choice for data storage in a new generation of consumer devices such as digital video recorders and digital music players.

Worldwide shipments of hard drives in emerging consumer applications is expected to grow from about 20 million last year to somewhere in the range of 88 million to 100 million in 2007, Monroe said. Monroe expects total shipments of hard drives to be roughly 380 million in 2007.

Hitachi's small drives are appearing in consumer electronics products such as Apple Computer's new iPod Mini. Hitachi also is working on a version of its 1-inch "Microdrive" that is not removable but could lead to consumer electronics devices that are smaller and cheaper. The hard-drive maker is currently selling a Microdrive that can be removed from devices similar to the way flash memory cards can slip into and out of digital cameras.

"We can easily envision 10 to 15 hard drives in your home" within five years, said Bill Healy, Hitachi senior vice president for consumer and commercial hard drives. The multitude of drives could be in devices such as MP3 players, digital video recorders and cars, according to Hitachi.

Hitachi's new 300GB enterprise drive is intended to go beyond the high-capacity enterprise drives of today, which hold up to 146GB. In building the new product that runs at 10,000rpm, Hitachi said it used upgraded manufacturing processes designed to improve reliability and performance. The drives have begun shipping and are in the process of being tested by major manufacturers worldwide, according to the company. Hitachi expects volume shipments of the drive, dubbed the Ultrastar 10K300, to begin in the second quarter of this year.

Hitachi said it will demonstrate its small enterprise drives at the SAS Plugfest next week in Durham, N.H. The 2.5-inch drives are designed to use an emerging interface known as Serial Attached SCSI (small computer system interface).