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Consumer devices boost hard-drive sales

The market for hard drives is growing--even as many of the devices themselves are shrinking, according to a market researcher.

The market for hard drives is growing--even as many of the devices themselves are shrinking.

Shipments of hard drives reached 254.3 million units in 2003, a rise of 16 percent from the previous year, according to data released Wednesday by market researcher iSuppli. The growth was attributed in part to the adoption of smaller drives in consumer electronics gadgets, blade servers, ultra-slim notebooks and tablet PCs.

Hard drives began moving into the consumer electronics market as sales of digital entertainment devices, such as game consoles, personal video recorders and portable audio players, took off. Accordingly, the need to inexpensively store digital media files increased as well.

Those kinds of devices often demand tiny drives, and manufacturers have been working to shrink the storage units. Start-up Cornice, for instance, recently began selling a 1-inch-diameter drive that holds 2GB of data. Last year, Toshiba introduced a pair of 1.8-inch drives, which can store 20GB and 40GB and are similar to the 2.5-inch hard drives found in notebook computers.

Other notable developments in the hard-drive market in 2003 included a shift from parallel to serial interface architectures and the introduction of a number of removable and external devices, iSuppli said.

Looking ahead, iSuppli said it expects the market to grow by 9.3 percent this year to 278 million units. By 2007, the market should grow to 358 million units, the research firm said.