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Tiny drive makes more room for storage

Storage start-up Cornice bumps up the capacity of its 1-inch drive to 2 gigabytes, promising to pack three hours of video on a device just larger than a pack of playing cards.

Storage start-up Cornice is packing a bigger punch into its tiny disk drives.

On Monday, the Longmont, Colo.-based company said it has begun selling a one-inch-diameter drive that holds 2GB, up from the 1.5GB, in its first-generation product. The roomier drive is expected to appeal to manufacturers of products such as video cameras, music players and Global Positioning System devices.

The new drive will let people store more than three hours of VHS-quality video on a device not much bigger than a deck of playing cards, according to the company.

Dave Reinsel, an analyst at research firm IDC, said the drive "has the potential to be in a ton of applications."

However, he cautioned that the prospects for small drives are governed by the price of flash memory, a competing storage technology based on silicon chips.

Reinsel also said that in the future, digital video cameras will probably use small rewritable DVDs instead of magnetic hard drives for storage, as DVDs handle playback more easily than drives do. That means that the window of opportunity for magnetic hard drives in video cameras may be short. "I don't think it's a long-lasting niche," he said.

Recently, hard drives have moved outside computers and into consumer electronics. Devices such as personal video recorders and digital music players often rely on hard drives for storage. On Monday, Royal Philips Electronics announced two new hard-drive based music players, one of which uses a 1.5GB Cornice drive, according to a Cornice representative.

Cornice isn't the only company that produces drives smaller than the 3.5-inch diameter models commonly found in desktop computers. Toshiba, which makes a 1.8-inch drive that's used in the popular Apple iPod music player, has said it is looking into making a still smaller model. In addition, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) makes a 1-inch model with 4GB of capacity as part of its line of diminutive drives, while China-based GS Magicstor has a 4.4GB 1-inch drive.

Research firm IDC has predicted that the market for 1-inch drives will grow from about 750,000 unit shipments in 2003 to 1.5 million this year.

Cornice launched its first 1-inch drive in June 2003. The product is being used in music players and a Samsung device that combines MP3 player and video camera functions.

Cornice said the 2GB drive has a list price of $70 per unit in quantities of 100,000 per year.