Removable, 1.8-Inch Hard Drive Due

IO Data Device's IVDR mini disk drive
A removable hard disk drive system first unveiled more than two years ago will soon launch commercially: IO Data Device of Tokyo is readying a drive and disk based on the Information Versatile Disk for Removable specification.

The IVDR standard was developed by a consortium of 38 companies, led by electronics industry heavyweights Fujitsu, Hitachi, Pioneer, Sanyo, Sharp, and Victor (JVC). Their goal was to develop a system that provides an easy way to transfer content between devices, in the same way a CD or DVD does, but which can keep pace with the constant advances being made in data storage technology.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in 2003, the consortium showed the IVDR Mini, which is based on 1.8-inch drives rather than the 2.5-inch drives originally shown. It is little more than a hard disk drive in a case with a common interface and connector.

IO Data will launch this smaller format later in April. Its entry is a set comprising a 20GB IVDR Mini disk and an adapter that can be connected to a PC via a USB 2.0 interface. The set will cost $320, IO Data says in a statement. Single disks of similar capacity will also be available priced at $225.

Technology's Origin

A high-capacity, removable hard drive drew interest because the quick pace of advances in storage techniques is speeding the obsolescence of technology.

Storage industry analysts say it's likely that the capacity of a product bought today, such as a digital video recorder or digital music player, will fall well short of similar products that will sell in just one or two years. Making the drive removable allows for an easier upgrade path, and that should mean that devices have a longer useful life.

The ever-increasing size of multimedia data also lends itself to such a system. When file sizes pass the 4.7GB capacity of a DVD, users often have no alternative but to transfer a file using a network. Removing a disk from one device, such as a video recorder, and inserting it into another, such as a PC, remains one of the fastest ways to transfer multigigabyte files between machines.

Product Plans

The new entry by IO Data Device consists of a drive and bundled driver software. It will work on computers running Windows XP, 2000, Me, and 98 SE; and Mac OS versions 9.x and 10.1 to 10.3.1. Users can run the drive from an AC adapter or via the power available from the USB bus. The drive measures 3.8 inches by 5.4 inches by 0.85 inches and weighs 4.2 ounces; the disk weighs 2.5 ounces.

With the format finally seeing a commercial launch, the next challenge for the consortium is to release a wider range of supporting products to stimulate consumer demand. Fujitsu, Hitachi, JVC, Pioneer, Sharp, and Sanyo are all leading manufacturers of consumer digital video camcorders, hard disk drive-based video recorders, and televisions, and products from those companies will likely need to be launched if IVDR is to achieve success in the highly competitive consumer electronics marketplace.

Several other big-name consumer electronics companies, including Sony and Toshiba, were once talked about as prospective members but have not been persuaded to join. The consortium's most recent boost came when Toyota became a member.

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