Scotts Valley (CA) - Seagate today provided an updated outlook on the future of the hard drive. The company nearly tripled today's highest storage density and believes that 275 GB capacities will be realistic for future Ipods, while desktop computers will be able to store up to 2.5 TB on one drive.
Hard drives, for the most part of their existence, were very well ahead of actually storage needs. It was not until recently that hard drives began to fall behind and concerns if current drives were actually capable to hold HD media content on the very high end and if small form-factor hard drives could offer the storage space necessary to differentiate themselves from the accelerating growth of flash memory chips.
Perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) has been praised as the technology to take traditional hard drives into the next phase and as an opportunity to further push the limits of an architecture that is expected to hit a natural border at some point in time. With the first PMR drive generation out the door, Seagate today provided a clearer vision on the capability of the technology. Speaking at the IDEMA DISKCON, chief technology officer Mark Kryder said that it has achieved a record storage density of 421 Gb/inch2. This number is up from 178 Gb/inch2 that is already mass produced by Hitachi today. The previous official record, 230 Gb/inch2, was set by Hitachi in April of 2005
Seagate's currently highest mass-produced storage density is 133 Gb/inch2, but the company believes that this value will increase on a fast pace. 1.8" drives, the form factor used for example by higher-end portable audio players such as Apple's Ipod could soon reach 275 GB. 2.5" notebook drives will grow to 500 GB and desktop drives to 2.5 TB - which is enough to store 41,650 hours of music, 800,000 digital photographs, 4000 hours of digital video or 1,250 video games - at least by today's standards.
Kryder believes that these capacity levels could be achieved by 2009. Seagate's largest drive today is a 750 GB 3.5" PMR drive, which is ample space for storing music and image. In times of HD video, the drive may not be enough anymore - as one drive can hold the content of only 15 Blu-ray disks. For the future, Seagate told TG Daily in an earlier interview, PMR may storage densities of up to 1 TB/inch2, which could translate into 5 TB hard drives - which would be in line with the estimate Hitachi mentioned in April of 2005.
Hard drives not only need to accelerate their growth on the high end, but on the low-end as well. With flash memory sticks already reaching 16 GB - which is above the largest micro hard drives today - and a recent announcement of Samsung that flash memory cards will reach more than 100 GB capacity in the foreseeable future, today's announced progress needs to be put into mass production rather sooner than later.
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slide show: Perpendicular hard drives and PMR technology