IBM this week announced a hard disk drive the size of a matchbook.
The Microdrive, which at 20 grams is equivalent in weight to four credit cards and can hold around 200 times more data than a floppy disk, is aimed for use in portable electronic devices including digital cameras and handheld PCs.
The Microdrive fits in to a CompactFlash Type II slot and will be available in mid-1999 in both 340MB and 170MB versions, IBM said. So far, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi and Minolta plan to use the Microdrive in some of their future products, according to IBM.
The Microdrive opens up opportunities for using older devices in new ways, according to Bill Healy, general manager of IBM Mobile Storage Products.
For example, the Microdrive could let personal digital assistants hold lots of data, instead of simple telephone contact lists and personal schedules, or allow cell phones to receive and store e-mail, Healy said. The Microdrive's ability to store large amounts of data in small devices will also fan the emergence of new product categories, such as wearable computers, he said.
The Microdrive as it is designed is interoperable: it can be transferred from camera to personal digital assistant to notebook, which is a crucial attribute, according to IBM.
"We need to be able to interchange them. We need to be able to move them from devices to computers," said Currie Munce, director of Storage Systems and Technology at IBM's Almaden Research Centre.
The Microdrive uses hard-disk drive technology to store information, unlike other portable storage options such as flash memory, the company said. The cost per megabyte for the Microdrive is thus much less than for other portable storage options, the company said, but it declined to specify that cost. The pricing will be set in the next 90 days, it said.