Iomega develops 1.5GB mini disk for mobile use

Iomega Corp. has developed a new magnetic storage disk for use in portable multimedia devices that is the size of a large coin and can store 1.5GB of data.

The Digital Capture Technology (DCT) system is still in the prototype stage and Iomega isn’t planning on launching the first products until at least the second quarter of next year. When it is launched, the company hopes the removable DCT disk, with its associated drive, will find favour among device manufacturers who are looking for an alternative to solid-state memory storage.

One of its biggest selling point is price: Iomega estimates a DCT disk will cost around US$10. Removable memory cards currently cost between US$175 and US$400 for 1GB of capacity and even with price reductions over the next year are still likely to cost several times that of a DCT disk at the time of the scheduled launch.

Compared to other disk systems it is also physically smaller. DCT disks are roughly five centimetres square making them about a quarter the size of Iomega’s Zip drive although larger than memory cards. Iomega says they are aimed at use in devices such as camcorders, tablet PCs and personal video recorders so this size might not be too much of a problem. But it is likely to preclude their use in the smallest and most portable multimedia devices.

The system uses Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd.’s Nanocubic data storage technology to achieve its high storage density. First announced by FujiFilm in late 2001, Nanocubic is a magnetic media coating technology that helps DCT achieve a data density of around 6Gb per square inch. Iomega has also tapped Japan’s Citizen Watch Co. Ltd. to develop DCT drives and Texas Instruments Inc. to develop digital signal processing (DSP) chips for the system.

Iomega says DCT samples have already been delivered to prospective customers with an aim to launching the system in 2004.

DCT is not however the only new technology gunning for the portable storage market.

Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV demonstrated last year its own coin-sized optical drive called small form factor optical storage or SFFO. The system is based on blue-laser technology and the three-centimetre diameter discs can hold up to 1GB of information. With their smaller size, Philips is developing SFFO as a memory card replacement technology.

One company, Boulder, Colo.-based DataPlay Inc., has already commercialized a miniature optical disc-based system although to date it has received a cool response from consumers. The DataPlay discs are, like the Philips system, 3 centimetres in diameter although their reliance on older technology means they can hold less data and can only be written to once. A 500MB disc, the maximum capacity available, currently sells for around US$36.