SDK first to manufacture perpendicular harddrive media

Tokyo - Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) claims that it is first to have started mass production perpendicular recording platters for harddrives. According to the company the 1.8" discs double the capacity of current devices to 40 GByte per platter.

Perpendicular recording will ring in a new opportunity for harddrive manufacturers to increase storage capacity of harddrives within the coming 6 to 12 months and especially Hitachi and Seagate are preparing their marketing people into gear to promote the new technology. But it appears that not one of these companies, but SDK, a manufacturer of harddrive platters, is first to actually offer perpendicular recording harddrive media.

SDK said it has started commercial production of 1.8" media for use in music players. According to the company, the media offer 40 GByte of capacity, twice the space of today's 1.8" platters. Theoretically, the SDK media enable music players such as Apple's iPod with 120 GByte of storage space.

SDK does not build harddrives itself, but rather supplies the media to harddrive manufacturers that do not develop and produce their own platters. According to Dave Reinsel, director of storage research at IDC, customers may include Samsung, Toshiba and Western Digital, while Seagate and Hitachi use their own media. "SDK is an independent source that helps to balance out the competitiveness between the manufacturers," he said. In certain cases, firms such as SDK are also used as "backup sources" in limited supply scenarios. SDK says it currently can manufacture 3.05 million media per month and plans to increase production capacity to 13.75 million units by March of 2006.

Compared with conventional harddrive recording technology that stores magnetic data on a horizontal plane of platters, perpendicular recording enables vertical recording as well. The technology is believed to take the storage industry well beyond of today's storage density limitations and allow the creation of TeraByte drives.

Initially, perpendicular recording however will not be used in 3.5" desktop drives, but for smaller devices. "Perpendicular recording is all about product positioning," Reinsel said. "The space between 1" and 2.5" drives will benefit the most from this technology." According to the analyst, these new drives will enable drive manufacturers to compete with other storage technologies such as Flash.

Toshiba was the first company to announce an actual harddrive with perpendicular recording technology. The company promised in December 2004 to launch 40 and 80 GByte 1.8" drives in Spring of this year, but we are still waiting for the actual availability of these models. Seagate recently said that it will introduce 2.5" perpendicular recording drives with up to 160 GByte capacity in the first quarter of 2006. Hitachi expects to ship drives using the new technology later this year.

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