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Next step for iPod: 80GB?

Toshiba, the company that supplies the tiny hard drives for Apple's music players, unleashes new technology.

Toshiba, whose tiny hard drives power Apple Computer's hit iPod music players, announced that it has produced an 80GB model.

The company said in a statement late Monday that it will begin mass production in mid-2005 of new 1.8-inch drives with capacities of 40GB and 80GB.

Similar-size drives currently top out at 60GB.

Apple did not immediately announce plans to incorporate the drives in future products, but new iPod configurations have closely tracked Toshiba hard-drive developments. Toshiba announced plans for a 60GB hard drive in June, followed a few months later by Apple's unveiling of a 60GB color-screen iPod.

Apple is expected to reveal new iPod models, possibly including a larger hard-drive based player and low-end models based on flash memory, at the Macworld trade show in San Francisco in January.

Toshiba said in the statement that it utilized new perpendicular recording technology to achieve storage capacity of 40GB on a single 1.8-inch disk (the 80GB drive will utilize two disks).

Conventional hard-disk construction lays the microscopic magnetic bits that store information flat. Toshiba succeeded in setting them upright, allowing many more bits to be stamped onto a given chunk of real estate. Toshiba said the new technology allows it to achieve record storage density of about 16GB per square inch.

"Our research confirmed the superior potential of perpendicular recording technology, and we have now achieved the core head and disk technologies required for reliable, high-density recording," Kazuyoshi Yamamori, vice president of Toshiba's storage device division, said in the statement.

Consumer electronics manufacturers have steadily gobbled up improvements in storage capacity as digital audio players have tackled additional jobs, such as digital photography and video playback.

Toshiba said it would also use the perpendicular technology in its 0.85-inch hard drives, aimed at cell phones and cameras, boosting capacity to 8GB.