RealTime IT News

Cornice Dragons Shrink And Hold More

Micro hard-drive startup Cornice has created new mini storage devices to help digital-media fans rack up large amounts of data on their MP3 players, smartphones and handheld computers.

The Longmont, Calif., company, less than a month removed from receiving a $97 million infusion of cash to continue innovating, introduced the Dragon series hard drive at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today.

The gadgets are 40 percent smaller than Cornice's previous micro drive, Storage Elements, as well as mini-storage machines from rivals Hitachi, Toshiba Iomega and others.

But don't be fooled by the size.

Offered in 8 gigabyte capacities -- and later expanding to 10 gigabytes -- the one-inch storage drives will allow device manufacturers to offer thinner and higher-capacity consumer electronics devices, including audio and video players, mobile phones and personal storage devices.

This size decrease and generous memory capacity are important at a time when consumers require more storage on their mobile phones, MP3 players and smartphones, which are all getting smaller.

Cornice said in a statement it made the machines smaller by narrowing the casing around the disk and shrinking the height.

The Dragon is also extremely rugged, featuring locking mechanisms that protect the device and enclosed data from corruption in case the drive is dropped.

Cornice has also decreased the power of Dragon by half, so that it now represents only 5 percent of the total battery consumption within a typical MP3 player system.

The Dragon drive, powered by Agere's TrueStore consumer electronics (CE) chipset, will be available to device manufacturers in the first quarter for $85 each in quantities of 10,000 per year.

"The market opportunity for this type of storage is growing rapidly, and Cornice is in a prime position to capture a large long-term market share," said Camillo Martino, Cornice's president and chief executive officer.

Martino may be right about that, according to recent data from IDC, which said small form factor and mobile PC hard disk drives (HDD) will represent a full quarter of worldwide semiconductor sales through 2009, thanks to snowballing interest in MP3 players, handheld computers and some smartphones.

However, micro drives face stiff competition from the growing popularity of NAND Flash memory storage, which is being used in products such as the iPod Nano and USB drives.

Micro drives are more likely to hold greater capacity and will likely rule in devices that require higher storage capacity than NAND can support, IDC said. The new iPod video player uses a small HDD.