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IBM breaks density record with new hard drives

Big Blue introduces high-capacity notebook drives that have five times the capacity of typical drives and are, for the moment, the densest drives ever.

IBM today introduced high-capacity notebook drives that are, for the moment, the densest drives ever.

With the 32GB Travelstar hard drive, IBM says it has engineered a way for delivering smoother video and clearer audio to notebooks.

The drives also feature greater areal density, a measure of how much data can be packed per square inch, than any other drive on the market. The new Travelstar can hold 17 billion bits per square inch, better than the recent record of 14.3 billion bits per square inch held by another IBM drive.

The new drive's capacity is five times typical notebook drives, enough to hold 49 music CDs or a mile-high stack of documents, according to Lee Johnson, marketing manager for IBM's mobile division. The new drive also spins at about 5,400 rotations per minute, faster than most notebook drives and more like a desktop PC drive.

The new drive will also come in 20GB and 6GB sizes. The drives will begin to appear in May in notebooks from, among others, Gateway, IBM and Compaq.

IBM is banking on the new drives overcoming the problem of choppy video playback endemic among the storage devices.

Improvements in hard drive technology have generally focused on size, speed and capacity, but since the dawn of the PC era little has changed in how drives transfer data. Hard drives were designed primarily for transferring text and not more demanding data, such as digital images, video and sound. The new drive partially disables the "error correction" function, which is important for checking the transfer of text files but hampers video playback.

"Today's mobile computer users want the convenience of portability and the computing power of a desktop workstation," said Bill Healy, vice president of IBM's Storage Technology Division, in a prepared statement. "IBM's Travelstar drives let notebook users store and process an unprecedented amount of information, from complex business data to photos, music, full-motion video and more."

IBM currently leads the market for notebook drives, holding a market share that hovers around 40 percent. Within the highly competitive hard drive market, IBM has often positioned itself as a technology leader.