CES 2006: Seagate demos W-USB harddrive, pluggable hard drive concept

On display was a 1.8" harddrive, encased in a shiny aluminum casing that was equipped with a Wireless USB chipset. The device was functional, but the only prototype Seagate has built so far. According to Rob Pait, director of global consumer electronics marketing for the company, W-USB are very short in supply and pretty much are hand built. He mentioned that Seagate had received the W-USB chipset used in the drive on display was received by his company around Christmas time.

Seagate's W-USB concept drive

While mass production is expected to be about 12 months away, the concept is very convincing. The drive can be accessed from any portable device with W-USB capability, which is likely to be also offered for today's devices in the shape of PC, USB sticks or multifunctional memory cards. There was no word on capacity, but perpendicular recording should help to bump the 1.8" space to 100 and 120 GB in the near future, which would be more than sufficient to store pictures taken with cellphones and store an average-sized music library.

Pait indicated that the drive likely will not make use of the full theoretical bandwidth of W-USB - 480 Mbps - and leave some "headroom" due to limitations of the chipset. Expect to see the first W-USB harddrives in stores in early or mid 2007.

With the amount of available digital content accelerating at a rapid pace, it will be a challenge for many consumers to have enough storage space available for all that content - and if they choose not to rent but to own it. Besides increasing the capacity of one main hard drive, Seagate suggests that there could be a hard drive library in our future. For example, every family member would have her or his own personal hard drive with personal content store on it. The concept is as simple as inserting and removing Flash memory cards from a memory reader. The downside of this concept is that content gets disconnected, but there are also advantages: For example, Pait said, in case of a fire we only would take our hard drive from the house, instead of trying to save a whole photo collection or a wall full of video and music collections from destruction. "The drive is your life," he said.

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