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Seagate launches notebook drives

The hard-drive maker has introduced a new line of drives for notebook PCs, a move that marks the company's return to the mobile market.

Hard-drive maker Seagate is going mobile.

The Scotts Valley, Calif., company introduced on Monday a line of hard drives for notebook PCs, a move that marks the company's return to the mobile market.

Initially, the new Momentus family includes just two drives, offering data storage capacities of 20GB and 40GB. Seagate plans to market the two drives as performance alternatives to drives currently on the market.

The Momentus drives, which are shipping in volume now, will each use a single platter, rotating at 5,400 revolutions per minute. Sticking to a single platter adds to reliability, Seagate said. Although other notebook drives run at this speed, most of today's drives add a second platter to help reach higher capacities.

A relatively large data buffer, for holding data while in flight, will give the new Seagate drives a performance edge, the company said. The drives will come with a standard 2MB buffer, but an optional 8MB buffer version of each drive, which Seagate said will increase performance by as much as 15 percent, is available. The larger-buffer drives in particular will most likely show up in more performance-oriented notebooks.

A new feature, QuietStep, will allow the drives to operate with less noise, Seagate said.

Seagate, which offered notebook drives in the mid-1990s, is one of the oldest companies in the hard-drive market. The company went private in 2000 to regroup and then went public again in 2002.

"Analysts say the (notebook drive) market is growing faster than any segment right now," said Mark Walker, product marketing manager at Seagate. "With consolidation taking place in the market, we're positioned well. Our OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) want us in the market right now--they want another supplier."

Seagate says it has already signed a deal with top notebook maker Hewlett-Packard. HP shipped the most units in the first quarter, according to IDC. Another customer will be Acer.

But Seagate is still likely to face stiff competition from Hitachi, Toshiba and Fujitsu. All three of those companies offer 5,400rpm drives in similar capacities and some drives in 60GB and 80GB capacities. Hitachi also recently announced a 7,200rpm drive.

Seagate will concentrate on selling its new drives directly to notebook manufacturers at first. But eventually the company plans to pursue the notebook hard-drive upgrade business, Walker said.