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Increasing power and falling prices are not just computing trends, they’re a way of life for the industry. Not every tech sector rides the waves of these continuing trends at once, though. Judging from recent announcements, the microdrive’s turn atop the crest has come. Several miniscule but high-capacity drives from different manufacturers have been produced or are about to be, and some appeared at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Colorado-based Cornice has introduced a 1-inch, 2GB drive it calls a “storage element.” Several consumer electronics manufacturers already use Cornice’s previous-generation storage elements, including PortalPlayer, SigmaTel, and Texas Instruments. The new 2GB model is aimed at portable video, multimedia, and GPS applications, and has a unit price of $70 in quantities of 100,000.

Like the previous Cornice drives, the 2GB contains fewer parts than many comparable products—a deliberate move designed to lower the cost, according to Kevin Magenis, the company’s president and CEO.

Meanwhile, Toshiba has developed a tinier microdrive—which it claims is the world’s smallest—aimed at mobile phones and portable consumer electronics devices such as digital audio players, digital cameras, camcorders, and external storage devices. The 0.85-inch unit is, according to Toshiba “the first drive to deliver multigigabyte storage in a sub-one-inch form factor.” Toshiba will start sampling the drives this summer, with production slated for late 2004.

And finally, Hitachi has a 4GB, 1-inch microdrive that it introduced late in 2003. Its design increases the number of tracks per inch to yield a density of more than 60 billion bits per square inch, according to the company. The drive is aimed at multimedia- and music-focused portable devices.

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