Hitachi absorbs IBM HDD unit, announces new drives

Hitachi Ltd. announced four new hard disk drive (HDD) products on Monday and formally launched Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc., a new company comprising Hitachi’s and IBM Corp.’s HDD operations.

Hitachi agreed to acquire IBM’s unprofitable HDD operations in June of last year for US$2.05 billion, the deal closed on Dec. 31.

Hitachi expects an increase in demand for HDD, not just for use in personal computers and servers, but also for consumer electronics such as car audio and set-top boxes. The company’s rivals include Seagate Technology, Maxtor Corp. and Western Digital Corp.

New in Hitachi’s product range is a drive specifically for automotive applications: the Travelstar A4K20. This 2.5-inch hard disk drive offers 20GB of storage for car navigation and car audio applications and will be available in the second quarter.

“The biggest growth area we’ve got, certainly in Europe and most likely in the world as well, is the automotive market. I think the automotive market could use millions of 2.5-inch drives in the next five years,” said Steve Pereira, director of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Europe Ltd., the European arm of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

Another new Hitachi product targeted at new markets is a 4GB version of the 1-inch (25.4 millimeter) wide Microdrive for portable devices such as digital cameras and digital music players. That compares to the current 1GB of maximum storage space on the Microdrive, Hitachi said in a statement.

The new 4G-byte version further offers a data transfer rate improvement of 50 per cent over existing Microdrives from IBM and should be available in the third quarter of this year, according to Hitachi. Hewlett-Packard Co. and Eastman Kodak Co. are among those considering the small form factor drives for their products, Hitachi said.

For the enterprise market, Hitachi announced the Ultrastar 15K73, a 15,000 RPM (revolutions per minute) 3.5-inch wide hard disk drive to be available in the first quarter in 36GB and 73GB capacities. The drive is meant for servers and will be available in Ultra 320 SCSI and 2G bit FCAL interfaces, Hitachi said.

For use in notebook computers and other portable computers, Hitachi announced the Travelstar Compact Series C4K40. This 4,200 RPM drive is 1.8-inch wide and will be available in April in 20GB and 40GB capacities. The connector on the drive is compatible with the larger 2.5-inch drives also used in portable computers, so computer makers can easily switch to the smaller drives, Hitachi said.

Pricing for the products was not announced.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, based in San Jose, Calif., employs about 21,500 people and is 70 per cent owned by Hitachi of Tokyo and 30 percent by IBM of Armonk, N.Y. However, IBM has no involvement with the management of the company and Hitachi will assume full ownership by the end of 2005, Hitachi said.