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Capacity ain't everything, says Hitachi

Pitches reliability ahead of size in the mobile market

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Hitachi is taking its foot off the capacity accelerator and instead coming up with hard drives that last longer and are cheaper to make.

The company's pitch for its revised 40GB Travelstar 4K40 laptop hard disk is reliability, rather than capacity. Key changes include a more rugged spindle motor and an uprated head loading mechanism that doubles to 600,000 the number of times that the read/write head can move on and off the platter without failure.

These revisions should allow the 4K40, which was announced in January last year, to stay on the market until the end of 2005, says Hitachi's EMEA channel manager John Fox.

"Product lifecycles are getting longer, and now higher capacity is not necessarily what our customers want," he says. Hitachi's immediate customers are laptop manufacturers, and every time a hard disk goes off the market they have to spend time and money qualifying a new one.

IDC figures confirm that 40GB is still the sweet spot for 2.5 inch drives, at around $3/GB. They also show 4200rpm drives such as the 4K40 losing share to faster models, but at about the same rate that the mobile market is growing.

Bob Peyton, IDC's European storage research director, said that prices will fall this year as more manufacturers enter the 2.5 inch market and as component counts fall. "There is a very close link between price and the number of heads," he added.

That means the 4K40 should be cheaper to make, as it is an optimised single-platter drive with fewer chips. However, Fox denies that the 4K40 is just about cutting Hitachi's costs ahead of the market becoming lots more competitive.

"You could call it tidying up or fine tuning based on what we've learnt from subsequent products," he said. "For example the changes to the load/unload mechanism are based on our 7200rpm developments." ®

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