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Startup Cornice readies 1-inch hard drive

Posted: 28 May 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:cornice? hard-disk drive? hdd? internal drive?

A startup is close to announcing a 1-inch HDD that could offer 50 percent greater capacity than IBM Corp.'s Microdrive at less than half the cost.

Cornice Inc. said its 1.5Gb internal drive, aimed at next-generation digital portable consumer gadgets, could sell for as little as $70. The drive is already generating some buzz for a ground-up redesign of the hard disk that focuses on low power consumption as well as cost.

But analysts noted that other 1-inch drive startups have not been able to overcome financial and technical difficulties and that a broad market for the drives has failed to emerge.

With just four chips - three of them from Texas Instruments Inc.-and a handful of discretes, the Cornice drive is said to use fewer components than the current, 1Gb IBM Microdrive. Cornice is said to have a road map that gets the drive down to three and then two chips.

The drive does not use a conventional interface but instead links directly to a host processor and is designed as an embedded drive. It was reportedly used in several prototype products shown at CES in January, including the Digital Gadget, a multifunction camera developed by Samsung Electronics.

The new drive comes as other startups with 1-inch drives struggle to survive. Marqlin Corp. is trying to find a new set of financial backers after having lost its initial investors. The company has given up hopes of launching its initial product, a 2.5Gb drive using the CompactFlash interface, and is now designing a 2G product as its market entry. "We ran into some funding problems. This is one of the tightest funding environments I have seen," said Gilbert Springer, CEO of Marqlin.

Marqlin struck a technology deal with Cornice recently, trading its mechanical engineering expertise for Cornice's microcode technology, Springer said.

Another 1-inch drive startup, GS Microdrive Inc., has launched the 2.4Gb MagicStor 1-inch drive in a CompactFlash II format. However, the drive has had poor feedback from reviewers, who said it draws too much current and can be unreliable at times. The 1-inch drive market thus far has totaled "a few hundred thousand drives, not the millions that were promised," said veteran drive analyst Jim Porter of Disk/Trend. The industry is awaiting the arrival of "shirt-pocket computers with voice recognition - the grandsons of the Palm" - as the app that could see the drives take off, he said.

Most IBM Microdrives have wound up in professional-grade digital cameras that sell for more than $2,000, Porter said. The company plans to follow up its 1Gb model, which sells for slightly more than $200, with a 4Gb model later this year, Porter added.

"I don't think these systems will find a huge business in the next year or two," he said.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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