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Removable dreams come true

Make your own Raiding party with next-gen drives

As predicted on the news pages this week, eight firms, among them some of the largest names in Japan's electronics industry, have formed a consortium to promote and license a new removable hard disk system.

Prototype systems look to give modular, scalable hard drive capacity at the consumer and small office home office (SoHo) level. One version of the vision looks very similar to a small, cutesy Raid array system (pictured).

The IVDR (Information Versatile Disk for Removable usage) consortium was established by Canon, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Phoenix Technologies, Pioneer, Sanyo, Sharp and JVC among others.

IVDR disks are little more than conventional 2.5in hard disk drives of the type commonly found in notebook computers and increasingly in consumer electronics products such as digital video recorders and some digital music players.

To the conventional drive the consortium members have added a new connector, better suited to such a removable system and a plastic case to protect the drive.

Led by Sanyo, which first considered such a system two years ago, the consortium members began discussing removable hard disk drives as a solution to an ever more common problem — maximum drive capacity is roughly doubling each year which means that consumers who buy a product designed to last several years will very soon be left behind by drive technology.

The answer, the group says, is a hot-swappable removable disk that consumers can upgrade as needed.

In addition, tying the system to personal computers should enable easier integration of digital images, audio and video between computer and consumer electronics platforms.

The group said it is still working towards version 1.0 of the standard but hopes to have it completed within six months.

None of the eight companies would commit to when they might release their first products, although the consortium's goal is to see IVDR in the shops by the end of the year.

The consortium is still in talks with Sony, Toshiba and IBM on the technology, said a spokesman for Sanyo, and there is a wish among the group to make it an internationally used system.

In addition to development of the physical drive format, the group have also worked out an interface specification, based on the standard ATA interface but with extensions for security and audiovisual functions, and a file system.

As for cost, the group expects IVDR drives to retail for around 10 percent to 20 percent more than a PC hard disk drive, said Hiroshi Nishida, an engineering manager at Hitachi's hard disk drive engineering support group.

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