The Hitachi 4 GB Microdrive Disk Drive

The Hitachi 4 GB Microdrive Disk Drive
The Hitachi 4GB Microdrive® Disk Drive
Meeting the Average User’s Mobile Data Requirements
J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D.
Principal Analyst
MobileTrax, LLC
The mobile market is one of the hottest growth areas in
the IT industry today, even in spite of a difficult economy.
Notebook PCs are replacing desktops in the enterprise.
College students are converting in droves to notebooks
rather than using desktops since the college campus has
wireless LAN access all over the campus and students
can, therefore, get network access in many locations.
Handheld PDAs
have passed
“The 4GB Microdrive is the
20 million users,
perfect removable storage media
and digital camthat matches the 3.8GB mobile
eras are poised
data requirement of the average
to pass film
notebook PC user.”
camera sales.
All of these
J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D.
mobile computPrincipal Analyst, MobileTrax
ing devices
need storage,
both internal and removable. Internal storage comes with
the mobile device—it’s what you get when you turn it on.
Removable storage allows users to select the storage they
need for the specific application or activity and put that
storage unit into the mobile device and then remove it for
archive or file transfer. Some of the major trends in the
mobile market today are:
announced plans to offer Wi-Fi in Starbucks and Wayport
announced Wi-Fi available in 75 McDonalds restaurants
in the Bay Area. Ten of thousands of people are converting their cable modems and DSL lines in their homes to
wireless LAN. Before too long, a network of Wi-Fi hotspots
will soon blanket entire metropolitan areas making Wi-Fi
truly pervasive.
Implications for mobile storage: notebooks and handhelds that are
used in public hotspots and wireless networks and work/home will
generate more data. There’s a greater need to transfer information
from one portable system to another as well using “sneaker net.”
The more one uses wireless, the greater the need for mobile storage.
Growth of the Handheld PDA Market
Migration from Desktop PCs to Notebooks
Handheld PDAs have grown to an installed base in excess
of 20 million units. Although the growth rate of PDAs have
slowed over the past year due to the faltering economy,
handhelds will continue to grow and eventually will exceed
sales of 100 million units a year. Most handheld systems
have the ability to add and remove storage, either in the
form of solid-state flash or a small 1” Microdrive. The most
prevalent slots in handhelds today are Compact Flash
(CF) and the smaller SD. CF comes in two thicknesses:
CF I at 3.3 mm and CF II at 5 mm. If the user only needs
modest amounts of storage, the SD slot and flash storage
are adequate, but if the user wants to store substantial
amounts of storage (multiple gigabytes), then the CF II
slot and Microdrive are the most appropriate.
Most organizations see the benefit of using a notebook
PC and are replacing desktops with notebook PCs. New
employees are getting notebooks instead of desktops as
well. This provides employees with more flexibility in being
able to take their system from one meeting to the next and
from work to home and back again.
One of the more exciting areas in handheld computing is the ability to store/playback video using MPEG4
compression. Thus, a typical DVD movie takes 4GB but
with MPEG4 compression, the size is reduced to 250MB
allowing both movies and other digital video to be stored
on a Microdrive and very high end flash cards.
Implication for mobile storage: Notebooks are portable and use 2.5”
internal disk drives. They all have a PCMCIA adapter that can accept
PC Cards, CF Cards and even smaller SD cards. Removable storage
will be the primary way in which notebook PC users get information
into and out of their systems.
Implications for mobile storage: as the market for handhelds grow,
they will be used with more applications including music and digital
video. Users will want to carry around more information, from music,
to photos to important enterprise information. Growth of handheld
PDAs will by its very nature create a bigger need for mobile storage.
Explosion of the Number of Wireless LANs
(Wi-Fi) Hotspots
Convergence of Handheld PDA and Cell Phone
Recently Cometa Networks announced plans to work with
IBM and AT&T to develop 25,000+ wireless LAN hotspots.
Verizon recently announced plans to convert public phone
kiosks in New York City to mini Wi-Fi hotspots. T-Mobile
In recent years, a new class of handheld devices has been
created that integrates a PDA and cell phone into a single
device. The units can store someone’s contacts, appointment calendar, receive/send email and make cell phone
The Hitachi 4GB Microdrive® Disk Drive
Meeting the Average User’s Mobile Data Requirements
calls with tight integration between the two, e.g. you can
select someone in the address book and then dial their
phone number with a simple selection.
Implication for mobile storage: converged devices will be
used even more than simple PDAs as the user will make
phone calls in addition to using the PDA functions. The
devices sold today incorporate an SD slot. Users will listen
to music, look at family photos, call friends and co-workers and will store lots of information.
Introduction of Tablet Computers
In November 2002, Microsoft and a number of portable
systems manufacturers announced the newest portable
computer paradigm: the incorporation of pen command
and control, as well as the ability to take notes, write
emails and highlight documents. This is called the Tablet
PC initiative, and most industry experts think that these
“pen extensions” in both hardware and software will
become more widespread in the coming years, with
upwards of 50% or more notebook PCs incorporating pen
extensions within five years. Most of the acceptance of
the Tablet PC initiative today has been in distinct vertical
markets such as home health care, professional services,
field engineering and other markets in which a tablet
computer is necessary.
The Tablet PC initiative will take a giant leap forward in
the Fall of 2003 when Microsoft introduces their newest
member of the Office family: OneNote. It is an application designed to assist portable computer users in their
creation, storage and retrieval of notes taken in meetings.
Most industry analysts believe that this one application
will expand the use of tablet PCs more than any other
development to date.
Implication for mobile storage: as users begin to use tablet computers to take notes in meetings, they will have a corresponding need
for more storage. And, since this information would be extremely
critical to the user, it will be important to back up this information
regularly using a removable mobile storage device.
Acceptance of Mobile Computing Lifestyle
Ten years ago, it was very unusual to see someone use a
notebook PC on an airplane. Today, it’s commonplace and
accepted as completely normal. Ten years ago, workers
could barely connect with their enterprise resources via
a telephone, and when it was successful, it was not an
enjoyable experience. Today, just about all workers who
spend time away from the office can stay connected either
at the airport, hotel or from home—and such connectivity
is fast at 11M bps using wireless LAN technology. Ten
years ago, no one used a handheld system. Today, over
20 million people rely on them to reference contacts,
calendars and email when away from the office. Ten years
ago, no one used a digital camera. Today, digital cameras
are outselling film cameras and people are sharing digital
photos over the internet. Ten years ago, no one had an
MP3 player or used MP3 in their handheld. Now, it is
commonplace. We have truly created the digital lifestyle
where digital media is carried around by tens of millions
of people. It won’t be too long before digital medial will be
carried around each day by billions of people.
Today, the mobile lifestyle is a normal way of life for most
mobile professionals. They use portable and handheld
computers. They connect to the Internet and enterprise
resources wherever they go. This can be seen in the
following diagram:
Figure 1. The Mobile Computing Lifestyle
Mobile is going mainstream in our society for the
following reasons:
• Increases enterprise effectiveness & productivity—
employees are able to be more productive if they can
do their mobile computing whenever and wherever
they might be.
• Mobile access to email & contact info—wireless email
is becoming the “killer application” that’s driving a
movement toward converged wireless devices.
• Mobile access to enterprise systems—most mobile
professionals can easily get access to the enterprise
information they need from just about any remote
• Shared information among field force—people in the
field share information with others in the field. This is
becoming a commonplace occurrence that ends up
helping support people in particular to find and repair
user’s problems.
• Digital media (digital photographs, music and video) are
a common and accepted part of our culture. It’s only
going to get more pervasive in the future.
The Hitachi 4GB Microdrive® Disk Drive
Meeting the Average User’s Mobile Data Requirements
• More up-to-date business processes—with mobile
computing, an enterprise is able to modify their business
processes to make them more productive. Some of the
benefits resulting from developing mobile-centric applications are:
Faster response times
Improved order entry/fulfillments
More “real-time” inventory control
Just-in-time customer relations
Increased revenues & profits
Implications for mobile storage: as our mobile lifestyles
continue to incorporate more mobile technologies,
we’ll see an ever increasing need for mobile storage.
Someone who may need 500MB today will need 5GB
within a few years.
Mobile Market
In spite of the difficult economy that we’re currently
experiencing (some say the worst since the depression
in the early 1930’s), mobile and wireless technologies are
enjoying growth—into more segments of users, into more
geographies and into more places in the enterprise. This
is a very fortunate thing to see happening. We suspect
that when the economy heats back up that the mobile
and wireless sectors will increase even more.
Notebooks are replacing desktops in most organizations. Sales of handheld PDAs and converged PDAs/cell
phones are continuing in spite of the economy. You can
see the state of the mobile/wireless device market in the
following table:
Notebook PCs
Handheld PCs
Vertical Application
Smart Phones
* Tablet PCs, bar code scanners, portable data collection devices, etc.
Source: IDC
Table 1. Size of the Mobile Device market in 2000 and 2004 (IDC)
Mobile storage form factors
Today, there are four important form factors for
mobile storage:
(1) 2.5” hard disk. This is the form factor used in notebook PCs today. The largest current 2.5” hard disk
capacity is 80GB. The transfer rate and average seek
time are getting to be as important as overall capacity
as much of the time taken by users with their system is
loading applications. For example, the new 5400 and
7200 rpm drives are greatly enhancing performance.
(2) 1.8” hard disk. For the past few years, this new
smaller disk had not seen much traction in the market
due to lower capacities when compared with 2.5”
drives. Since the typical notebook form factor has
enough room to incorporate a 2.5” disk, there’s
not been any advantage of using a 1.8” disk drive.
However, with the recent development of dedicated
music players such as the Apple iPod, the 1.8” disk
drive is getting more traction in the market. Capacities run about 50-75% of the 2.5” disk, and the drive
is thinner, smaller and less weight than a 2.5” drive.
We will continue to see the 1.8” disk drive become
more important in future years as smaller form factor
portable devices come to market that require tens of
gigabytes of internal storage.
(3) 1” Microdrive. IBM (now Hitachi) introduced the first
1” Microdrive in 1999 with a capacity of 340MB. In
2000, the capacity was increased to 1GB. The Microdrive has seen initial success in high end digital cameras and a number of industrial markets. Now, with the
introduction of the 4GB Microdrive, it opens up a much
wider market opportunity (as demonstrated below).
(4) Flash Storage. Flash storage uses small integrated circuits in order to enable non-volatile storage. It is used
for modest amounts of storage, typically between 32
and 256MB, although higher capacities are available.
The price of flash storage is significantly higher per
megabyte than hard disks, e.g. the price of a 256MB
SD card is $89 or $356/GB where as the 4GB Microdrive at launch will be priced at $499 MSRP. Thus, the
4GB Microdrive will have an average price of $125 per
GB, less than one third the price per megabyte of flash
storage. And, high capacity flash (multiple GB’s) is very
expensive, e.g. 4GB of flash storage today is priced in
excess of $1,000.
The Hitachi 4GB Microdrive® Disk Drive
Meeting the Average User’s Mobile Data Requirements
Market opportunities for mobile storage
In order to determine the storage requirements for the
mobile market, you have to look at the type of information
that people keep in their portable and mobile systems,
the size of the unit of storage for that type and the total
amount of storage that’s required for that type.
• Music—The most standard file type for digital music is
MP3, and it takes about 1MB of storage for each minute
of music. Thus, an average 3 minute musical number
takes approx 3MB of storage. There’s a wide range of
minimum to maximum music tunes that people have on
their computer.
• Photos—Digital cameras are outselling film cameras
today and the trend won’t stop there. Resolution of
digital images has continually increased over the past
five years such that all mainstream digital cameras
support 3 or 4 megapixels (MP) with high end cameras
supporting 8-10MP. The increase in MP is not going to
continue because after around 10MP, there’s no benefit
to the human eye in looking at the digital image, and you
can blow up a 10MP photo to be 11”x17” and the image
will be the same as an original 35mm film image. Most
consumer cameras will level off at 5MP and professional
cameras at 10MP. If the image is stored in JPEG format,
the image size will be around 1MB for a 5MP image and
2MB for a 10MP image. In the table below, we have
taken 1MB as the size of the typical digital photo. Over
time, people will accumulate more digital photos but
we’ve assumed that an average user will have 500 digital
photos where as a high end user will have 5,000 images.
• Presentations—Presentations are typically created in
PowerPoint although there are a few other successful
presentation graphics programs. We have assumed that
a small presentation is 200K or .2MB and a large presentation is 3MB. We’ve also assumed that the average
person would maintain 100 small presentations and 50
large presentations where the power user would maintain
considerably more.
• Word Processing—Word processing files are most
typically generated in MS Word. We have assumed a
small Word file to be 20K bytes and a large Word file to
be 200K. The average user will have 500 small and 250
large Word files on their system. Again, the power high
end user will have more of both.
• Spreadsheet—Spreadsheets are maintained in Excel
most of the time. We have assumed that the average
small Excel file is 50K bytes and 2MB for a large file.
The average user will have 250 small and 50 large
Excel spreadsheet files on his or her system with
correspondingly more files on the system maintained
by the power user.
• Movie—Movies are just now beginning to be stored on
and the hard drive of a portable system. Raw content
typically takes 4GB per movie but with MPEG4 compression, the average movie can be reduced to 250MB.
We have assumed a modest five movies for the average
user and 100 movies for the power user. Digital videos
(using MPEG4) are used as mobile entertainment for
people traveling.
• Email—Outlook currently has 150 million users according to Microsoft and is growing to be the most used
application program after MS Word. Most people put the
emails they would like to keep for future reference into
one or more folders. MS created a special offline file type
called the PST file for users to create a folder directory
for the emails they want to keep and reference. We have
assumed that the average user would have a 200MB
PST while the power user would have a 1.5GB PST. The
average user would maintain approx. 5,000 emails.
The following table shows a summary of the mobile storage requirements by application for the most typical PC
user today as well as for the high end “power user”:
Unit (MB)
Total Units
Average High
Total Storage (MB)
Average High
Digital photo
Word (Small)
Word (Large)
Excel (Small)
Excel (Large)
Movie (MPEG)
Outlook (PST)
Outlook (PST)
Note: Estimates are for data, not programs.
Table 2. Requirements for storage for average and high end users
As you can see from the above table, the average user is
likely to maintain approximately 2,200 files that correspond
to 3.8GB of data. The power user frequently requires two
or more gigabytes of storage for a single application.
The Hitachi 4GB Microdrive is a breakthrough in small
form factor storage for this segment. This information is
assumed to be held in a notebook PC. However, within a
few years, the same amount of information will be held in
a handheld device.
The Hitachi 4GB Microdrive® Disk Drive
Meeting the Average User’s Mobile Data Requirements
It’s important to note that the above estimates are for
usage over a 3-5 year period as we tend to accumulate
more information over time. For example, we might take
500 digital photos in a year. We would then have 2,500
digital photos in five years. The following diagram demonstrates the above information in a graphical manner:
But, when there’s a need to transfer a lot of information,
either there has to be a shuttle sequence or you can use
a Microdrive that has capacities up to 4GB.
• System Migration—when people migrate to an
upgraded notebook system, one of the more difficult
activities is migrating the data from the old system to
the new one. This process can require upwards of 1GB
or more of information. The best resource to do this is
using either a Microdrive or a 1.8” PC Card drive.
As we have seen from this section, the average user has
a data requirement that is approx. 3.8GB. Thus, the 4GB
Microdrive is an excellent resource for the average computer user to manage, back up and copy files from one
system to another.
Hitachi’s new mobile 4GB Microdrive
Figure 2. Storage Requirements by Application
As you can see, the new 1” Microdrive with 4GB capacity will support all of the storage requirements for the
average user.
In addition to the types of information, there are various
processing functions that users often do with removable
storage, including:
• Backup—This is the most important and least used
application on notebook systems. People are basically
lazy and don’t bother backing up their data. And yet,
when they have a loss of data (hard disk crash, theft,
etc.), realization that back up is necessary becomes very
apparent. It’s important to realize that you really only
need to back up your data, not your programs as they
can easily be re-loaded. But data is original. Therefore,
you need to have a back up in case a problem occurs
with system.
• File Transfer—We often have to transfer files between
two computer systems. In the old days, people did this
with floppy disks, but they are not being used any longer
since they have a capacity of only 1.44MB. This physical
transfer became known as “sneaker net” as the person
wearing sneakers would take the disk from one system
to another. Today, most people just email files to the
other person. However, in cases where the information
is really large (like 1GB), email is not a viable option.
There are a lot flash storage options (including USB
DiskOnKey) that provide 64MB to 256MB of storage
that can be used to transfer files between systems.
Hitachi has just introduced their new 4GB 1” Microdrive.
This is their latest offering in the 1” Microdrive family. As
demonstrated above, the 4GB Microdrive is well suited
to manage, back up and transfer files from the average
user’s notebook PC system. It is also a great resource for
handheld PDAs and digital cameras that
have a CF Type II slot. A CF Type
II device easily is inserted into
a PMCMIA card adapter so that
the CF device can be used with a
notebook computer.
Figure 3. Hitachi Global Storage 1” Microdrive (4GB)
As we migrate into a world of wireless communications,
we will have more portable devices in which we use more
data. Hitachi’s 4GB Microdrive is perfectly positioned
to be the best match between user’s data requirements
and storage resources and relative cost as shown in the
following diagram:
Figure 4. The 4GB Microdrive Meets Most Users’ Data
Storage Requirements
The Hitachi 4GB Microdrive® Disk Drive
Meeting the Average User’s Mobile Data Requirements
As can be seen in this diagram, flash does not meet the
user data storage requirements whereas the 4GB Microdrive does. The 1.8” drive also can meet the user data
storage requirement but represents an overkill for these
requirements. And, the 1.8” drive cannot be used in digital
cameras and handhelds PDAs.
Future trends
Since the mobile market is now going mainstream, we’ll
see an outpouring of new mobile devices, all of which
will need significant mobile storage. We’ll soon see new
mobile phones, PDAs, game devices, personal media
players and handheld navigation devices coming to
market. The 4GB Microdrive (and its descendents) will
provide the storage necessary to allow these future
products to meet the associated application requirements.
Final comments
The 1” Microdrive has been in the market for the past four
years. This fall, it comes in three capacities: 1GB and 2GB
and now 4GB. The older Microdrives have been a success
in focused markets such as professional digital cameras
and various industrial markets. Now, the introduction of
the 4GB Microdrive allows Hitachi to provide a removable
storage unit that meets the data requirements for the average user. It is perfectly suited for the digital media market
such as digital cameras, camcorders, handheld PDAs and
with the notebook adapter in notebook PCS for back up,
file transfer and system migration activities.
We recommend that enterprise IT issue a Microdrive to all
of their employees who have a notebook PC along with
back up software so that each user can back up their most
important data on to the Microdrive on a regular basis.
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additional information. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies shall not be liable to third parties for
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© 2007 Hitachi Global Storage Technologies
References in this publication to Hitachi Global Storage Technologies’ products, programs or services
do not imply that Hitachi Global Storage Technologies intends to make these available in all
countries in which it operates.
Microdrive® is a registered trademark of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.
Product specifications provided are sample specifications and do not constitute a warranty. Information is true as of the date of publication and is subject to change. Actual specifications for unique
part numbers may vary. Please visit the Support section of our website,,
for additional information on product specifications. Photographs may show design models.
Hitachi Global Storage Technologies
3403 Yerba Buena Road
San Jose, CA 95135 USA
Produced in the United States 11/07.
All rights reserved.
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