Western Digital plans 3-inch hard drive

Western Digital (WD) surprised observers yesterday by saying it plans to expand its disk drive coverage at the mobile end of the market with a new form factor, as well as entering the SCSI server/workstation market for the first time.Although the firm's arrival at the enterprise market was widely expected, the announcement of the mobile drive family was not.

Western Digital (WD) surprised observers yesterday by saying it plans to expand its disk drive coverage at the mobile end of the market with a new form factor, as well as entering the SCSI server/workstation market for the first time.

Although the firm's arrival at the enterprise market was widely expected, the announcement of the mobile drive family was not. Most surprising is that WD plans to use a new form factor of 3-inch, instead of the 2.5-inch factor used by nearly all of today's mobile PCs.

Bernd Robatzek, general manager for Europe, said that the product will store 1Gb on a single platter and slot into 10mm cavities. Called Portfolio, the product will be aimed at portable PCs, including the emerging breed of ultra-thin notebooks, he said.

The drives will be marketed as ideal for secure applications and switching operating environments as they can easily be removed and swapped. WD hopes to sell parallel and PC Card versions of the drive through retail so that data can be easily transferred as with Iomega's Zip drives. A top 10 PC OEM has already been signed up and the first Portfolio products will ship in October.

The enterprise products are 2.17Gb and 4.36Gb capacity units that are SCSI-3 compliant and ship with 512Kb or 1Mb buffers. Unlike most products in the class, they use thin-film heads rather than the pricey magneto-resistive heads that are currently in short supply. WD spies an opportunity in the SCSI market thanks to the departure of Hewlett-Packard and Conner. "The consistent message is that the high-end market needs another viable player," said Dan Good, senior director of the enterprise storage group marketing at WD.

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