ST-Micropolis plans assault on WD, Seagate

Hewlett-Packard's (HP) recent departure from the hard disk drive business, taking a charge of $150m against third quarter 1996 revenues, might look like a big drop in competition in the storage business, but another vendor has stepped in to fill HP's shoes. After the acquisition of the failing disk drive maker Micropolis by Singapore Technologies (ST) last March, the privately-owned company has revealed its product strategy.

Hewlett-Packard's (HP) recent departure from the hard disk drive business, taking a charge of $150m against third quarter 1996 revenues, might look like a big drop in competition in the storage business, but another vendor has stepped in to fill HP's shoes. After the acquisition of the failing disk drive maker Micropolis by Singapore Technologies (ST) last March, the privately-owned company has revealed its product strategy.

No longer will the company aim for the top end - at the time of the buy-out, Micropolis had announced a 23Gb disk drive which has now been dropped in favour of a 9Gb model. Instead, it will concentrate on the mid-range and low-end workstation market, going for volume and market share.

Micropolis' road map includes three more drives in the Tomahawk range, two of which, 4.5Gb and 9.1Gb models, are UltraSCSI-3 compliant, due for launch next year, and feature firmware written in C++; this allows optimisation to be more swiftly applied, the firm claims. The other is a 2Gb Fast-SCSI-2 device which has just been launched.

This means it will be competing directly with the likes of Western Digital (WD) and Seagate, says ST's CEO Joe Chen, who welcomed HP's departure. The plan is to defeat WD through its relationships with OEMs at the high end of the market, and hit Seagate with a faster time to market and more competitive pricing.

Micropolis isn't carrying on with the manufacturing of all the components itself either. According to spokesman Jon Toor, as well as the abandonment of subsystem manufacture, Micropolis will focus on reliability. It was poor reliability that heavily depressed the drive sales of the original company.

Extra reliability in this case means buying in rather than building components where appropriate, Toor said. The company was spending millions of dollars on analysis tools.

ST's revenues were $2.3 billion in 1995, and the company is "government-linked" - in other words, the state has provided all the venture capital.

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