Smaller hard-disk drives, faster drives and a major expansion in the market for hard-disk drives in consumer electronics devices will be among the industry highlights of 2003, says the International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association (IDEMA).

Reviewing the consumer electronics market, the group revealed that over 12 million disk drives shipped to consumer electronic manufacturers in 2002. This is predicted to climb to 30 million units in 2003 and 50 million in 2004. Demand will be driven by the advent of new TV-related products integrating hard disks, as well as games console sales.

Apple's decision to adopt Toshiba's 1.8-inch drive once exemplified it's eye for innovation, the Association says: "The Toshiba 1.8-inch family of drives has had a measurable effect on the industry. Several other suppliers struggled with 1.8-inch over the past few years, and market acceptance was almost immeasurable until Toshiba began production."

The Association recognizes Apple's market coup in using the technology to bring product to market: "The coup for the 1.8-inch product clearly was the success of Apple’s iPod MP3 device, but Toshiba has wisely expanded the product to other areas. The size of the product makes it a natural fit in many CE applications, but Toshiba has commenced integration of the drive in lightweight notebooks and thus has created another possible large volume opportunity."

Looking ahead at the fate of the disk drive market in 2003, IDEMA predicts several key market-shaping forces:

The introduction of 1-inch Microdrive media capable of storing 4.7GB, equivalent to a full DVD-quality movie.

Desktop drives will complete the migration to 7,200 rpm (revolutions per minute) from 5,400 rpm.

Migration to the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (S-ATA) interface will begin in 2002 and the interface will become dominant over the next few years.

Notebooks will continue to move to the 1.8-inch disk drive format in low-power, lightweight devices.

Drives in enterprise systems will accelerate their move to 15,000 rpm technology as new manufacturers enter the market.

IDEMA expects the business market to recover this year following a disastrous 2001. One major new opportunity is the developing consumer electronics market as typified by the new generation of personal video recorders (PVRs) with inbuilt disk drives.

There are now seven major hard disk manufacturers following the buyout of IBM's drive business by Hitachi, with Seagate Technology and Maxtor between them holding just over half the market in 2002, according to IDEMA figures.