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Hard-Drive Vendors Look For New Opportunities

The hard-drive market might not be exciting or experiencing exploding sales, but for companies like Toshiba and Samsung it is a category that deserves and receives a great deal of attention.

These two CE and PC giants operate in different sectors of the hard drive market and each sees major changes taking place in the coming year for each company, and the industry in general.

Maciek Brzeski, Toshiba’s marketing VP, storage device division, said his company’s efforts, which started back in 2001, to place hard drives of all sizes in new devices is paying off. The development of hard drives going into portable devices, such as MP3 players, has boosted the market, Brzeski said.

“Unit growth in alternate applications is growing and we are pushing ourselves into these, particularly those outside the PC space,” he said. “We were at CES this year to try and attract these product builders.”

Toshiba is introducing new capacity for its 1.8-inch drives, which are used in portable audio players. Two platter hard drives with 40GB capacities are now coming out and versions with double the space will ship later this year, he said.

Creating hard drives for these new products is a matter of taking current versions and placing them into a new case. The environment that portables operate in requires the drives to be toughened to absorb shock, and to work on battery power, Brzeski said.

The next big opportunity for hard-drive vendors, according to Brzeski, is in the automotive field. Hard drives will become standard equipment in the next few years as not only part of the car’s on-board computer, but also for rear-seat entertainment systems.

Another area of interest for Toshiba is desktop PCs. Toshiba’s 2.5-inch hard drives, now found primarily in notebook computers, may soon be placed in full-size computers, Brzeski said, because their data capacities are now approaching that of the 3.5-inch drives now used in PCs. The benefits of using the smaller drives include power consumption and noise reduction.

Samsung is not looking to make major changes in the type of hard drives it offers, but will start selling the drives as aftermarket products by the third quarter of 2003, said Sean Stead, Samsung’s senior marketing manager for storage.

The first three capacities to be offered are 80GB, 120GB and 160GB. Pricing has not been fixed, but will be comparable to similar models already on the market.