March 4, 2002 3:50 PM PST

Setting standards for removable drives

A group of Japanese electronics manufacturers will form a trade group this week to set standards for removable 2.5-inch hard drives.

The formation of the Information Versatile Disk for Removable Usage (IVDR) consortium will be announced in Japan on Wednesday by Canon, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Phoenix Technologies, Pioneer, Sanyo, Sharp and Victor, according to a representative with Fujitsu.

The group will be charged with developing standards to ensure that removable hard drives can be swapped from one device to another. The standard would allow manufactures of computers and hard drives to use the same type of connection. Removable drives are limited to certain models of notebook PCs and to desktop PCs as add-ons.

The concept is expected to spread as storage capacities increase and electronics devices such as Microsoft's Xbox game console and Moxi Digital's home entertainment center incorporate hard drives.

While this trade group will rally some manufacturers around a standard, other electronics manufactures tout a range of their own removable storage approaches. For example, Sony has the MiniDisc format, IBM sells the Microdrive and there are various flavors of flash memory. Drives for one format don't work with media for another, forcing consumers to make tough choices.

IDC analyst David Reinsel said that while removable hard drives offer advantages for mobile PC users, they're bulky and fragile compared with other forms of removable storage.

"The market for removable hard drives is relatively small now...and I think it's going to remain a niche market," Reinsel said.


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