Toshiba is to begin sample production next year of a coin-sized hard-disc drive that can hold up to 3Gbytes of data.
Toshiba will demonstrate a prototype of the drive at the CES show in Las Vegas next month and plans sample production from the middle of 2004. Commercial production could begin as early as 2005.
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At present, the smallest commercial hard-disc drives in mass production have one-inch platters. These products include the MicroDrive range of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies and the Storage Element drive launched earlier this year by Cornice.
The MicroDrive offers data storage capacities of up to 4Gbytes, but the one-inch discs are too large for some portable electronics products, meaning that manufacturers are left with little choice but to use the much more compact but more expensive flash memory.
While flash memory meets the physical size requirements demanded by products such as digital music or video players, personal digital assistants and mobile phones, the increasing ability of such devices to handle multimedia applications requires a high-capacity and low-cost storage medium. This is pushing drive manufacturers to experiment with even smaller drives to meet both physical size and data capacity needs.
The market for 1.8-inch and smaller hard disc drives is expected to mushroom over the next five years, according to data from market analysis company Coughlin Associates, which estimated that shipments of such drives will total 3.3 million this year and grow to 23.7 million in 2008.
Martyn Williams writes for IDG News Service