Sumo-sized hard disks are being readied for launch in laptops, says Seagate, which is also about to ship its first flash-enhanced 'hybrid hard drives'.
Is it 'standing room only' on your notebook's hard drive, with downloaded movies and music files crammed shoulder to shoulder?
Seagate is readying the third generation of its Momentus notebook drives using perpendicular magnetic recording
to push past the 200GB barrier.
While already a colossus on its own terms, and the biggest player on the block since its takeover of Maxtor in 2006, Seagate recently lost the laptop storage lead to Fujitsu.
The latter firm following the latter's release of a 200GB 2.5in drive plus a 100GB-per-platter PMR offering (the MHX2 BT) which can cram 300GB into a single drive. (Despite fervant promises, Hitachi Global Storage Technology is still pegged at the Travelstar 5K160's 160GB).
"The 200GB notebook drive is imminent, and there's still a lot of headroom beyond that" says Rob Pait, director of Global Consumer Electronics Market for Seagate.
"The key is perpendicular magnetic recording, which is the next phase of how we read and write data on the drive."
"We're only in the second generation of products with that technology, and obviously it's not unlimited, but laptops can really get to some pretty big capacities".
In the much nearer future, Seagate will begin supplying its first flash-enhanced hybrid hard drives to OEMs and ODMs for incorporation into their laptops.
"In the next few weeks we're starting shipment of the Momentus PSD power-saving drive" Pait told APC.
"This will come with non-volatile memory in cache sizes of 128MB and 256MB, so there's both low end and high end there, and the disk capacities will range from 80GB to 160GB."
Pait says that the manufacturers are enthusiastic about hybrid drives, despite their price premium over conventional disk drives, because it allows them to further differentiate their product lines and add value to more expensive models.
"Not every laptop is going to have a hybrid drive. Only laptops that are really specialised in delivering the benefits of power saving, faster wake-up and faster performance under Windows Vista, and that will take advantage of the performance features that you'll see in certain applications."
"This sort of gives the PC manufacturing industry an opportunity to create a mid-level layer of products that from a price standpoint we imagine will be above desktop replacement laptops that aren't really geared for mobility but for low price and big screen, and that upper layer of high-performance visual gaming laptops."
Seagate's timetable for shipping the Momentus PSD in mid-to-late March dovetails neatly into Intel's expected announcement of the fourth-generation Centrino platform (codenamed Santa Rosa) at the Intel Developer Forum held mid-April in Beijing.
Notebook makers are gearing up to release a batch of models based on the new platform which will include integrated DirectX 10 graphics plus support for the Draft 2.0 spec for 802.11n wireless.
While Santa Rosa will also introduce Intel's own flash-based caching technology, codenamed Robson -- which relies on flash memory residing on the notebook's motherboard rather than being built directly into the hard disk assembly -- Robson will not be a must-have item on the Centrino checklist.
"You'll see many systems with Robson, because it enables us to accelerate performance and save battery life, but it will not be mandatory" Mooly Eden, General Manager for Intel's Mobile Platforms Group, told APC in a recent interview. This will allow notebook vendors to use hybrid hard drives instead of Robson modules, but still use the Centrino logo (and take their fistful of Intel's co-marketing dollars).