Hitachi targets cars, videos with new hard disks

Three new high-capacity hard drives will reach the market in 2007

Hitachi hopes to win market share from rival Toshiba with three new high-capacity hard drives that will reach the digital video recording and automotive navigation markets in 2007.

Hitachi will announce new versions of its CinemaStar and Endurastar drives on Friday at the IFA international consumer electronics show in Berlin. The drives are designed for high-end consumer electronics platforms built by third-party vendors.

The company hopes these products will be a business success, since their sales in consumer electronics devices have been growing faster than sales for the traditional IT markets of laptop and desktop PCs, said Marcia Bencala, vice president for product strategy and planning at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

Hitachi claims that its CinemaStar C5K160 will be the industry's smallest size DVR (digital video recorder) disk at 2.5-inches diameter, and that its Endurastar J4K50 and N4K50 will be the largest capacity automotive disks at 50GB.

Indeed, these high-capacity drives could act as halo products for Hitachi, enticing customers to buy more mid-range drives as well, said Nicole D'Onofrio, a storage analyst with Current Analysis.

"Desktop drives continue to be the bread and butter for hard drive manufacturers, but we're increasingly seeing mobile devices accounting for more sales, and now consumer electronics and automotive," D'Onofrio said.

Hitachi used perpendicular recording technology to fit dense storage on its 2.5-inch diameter CinemaStar disk, much smaller than the standard 3.5-inch size used in digital video players.

That allows designers of DVRs, portable video players and DVR-enabled televisions to build slimmer products without sacrificing high capacity; 160GB are enough to store 57 movies or 40,000 four-minute songs.

Hitachi supplies nearly the entire market for high-end 400GB and 500GB recording disks. The company hopes the new CinemaStar will help it increase its share of the market for smaller-capacity disks, which stands at around 20 percent for 80GB and 160GB disks. Leaders of that segment include Seagate Technology, Western Digital, Fujitsu, and Samsung Electronics.

Hitachi plans to reach full volume production of its 160GB CinemaStar C5K160 disk (also available in 80GB and 40GB) by the second quarter of 2007.

That means customers could be buying DVRs using Hitachi disks by Christmas 2007, said Bill Healy, senior vice president of corporate strategy and marketing at Hitachi.

Hitachi's other new products, the Endurastar J4K50 and N4K50, are designed to be rugged enough to withstand automotive vibration and temperature swings while offering enough capacity for applications like navigation, digital music and audio books.

Hitachi did not name the vehicle manufacturers that would use the disks, but such features are commonly found in luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Hitachi hopes to improve its 20 percent market share in a huge automotive market that produced 64 million cars and light trucks in 2005. The demand for hard drives in those cars is expected to grow at 38 percent per year from 2005 to 2010, Healy said.

The company will reach full production of its 50GB Endurastar J4K50 and N4K50 (also available in 40GB and 30GB) by the first quarter of 2007.