Microdrives Will Redefine Consumer Appliances

SINGAPORE (03/08/2000) - High-capacity, low-cost microdrive hard disks have the potential to redefine how consumer appliances operate with audiovisual and data content. But the disk drive manufacturing industry will have to design the drives differently from those destined for the PC market, according to Paul Webb, director of process engineering, consumer electronics business unit, at Quantum Corp.

"Hard disk drives in consumer appliances are a disruptive and revolutionary technology for audiovisual applications," Webb said in a speech here today at the Diskcon Asia-Pacific conference. "We expect them to appear in set-top boxes, MP3 players, cameras, audio juke boxes and personal video recorders."

To serve these needs, disk drive manufacturers will have to ensure ease of use, instant-on technology, quieter-running drives and a greater ability to withstand shocks and vibration. Moreover, they will have to deliver this at a price acceptable to the consumer market, according to Webb.

"Early adopters will buy something priced between US$500 and $1,000," he said.

"But if you want to capture the mass market, you've got to bring it in at under $300."

Next-generation consumer appliances will come with content preloaded at the factory - content that could include music samples, movie previews, catalogs, "lite" versions of software applications and even advertising material, according to Webb.

A typical home consumer can expect to store about 500G bytes of content, made up of movies, CD-quality music, two weeks' worth of TV programs, games and personal videos. Although that would require 30 separate hard disks to store at today's capacities, continuing technology advances will make this capacity a practical reality within a few years, Webb said.

"At the current rate of progress, a single four-head two-disk drive will be able to store 500G bytes by 2004," he said.

Microdrives are already beginning to replace flash cards for use with still-image digital cameras, as they share the same CF+ Type 2 form factor.

Current microdrives store approximately 340M bytes, increasing to around 500 the number of high-resolution photographs that can be stored.

The microdrive's capacity is expected to double to 600M bytes within a year and reach 1.3G bytes by 2002, according to IBM Corp., a principal developer of microdrive technology.

Quantum, based in Milpitas, California, can be found online at http://www.quantum.com/.

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