AIM-alliance (Apple, IBM, Motorola) partner, IBM has updated its Microdrive, tripling its capacity to 1GB.

The hard drive measures only 0.2-x-1.4-x-1.7-inches and weighs half an ounce. In September, a travel kit including the Microdrive PC card adaptor and field case will hit the market.

Its high capacity, small size, and improved shock resistance rate make the drive suited for portable devices, say IBM representatives.

John Osterhout, worldwide marketing director for IBM's storage technology division, said: "There’s a tremendous potential for very-small, high-capacity, affordable, storage-options for portable devices."

Small is better Reducing the size of the storage drive will give manufacturers more flexibility in designing portable devices, and will boost applications for such devices, Osterhout says.

Danielle Levitas, research manager for storage at IDC, said: "Technologically, it's an impressive product, and in terms of products in the market, the 1GB Microdrive is the smallest rotating storage drive in the world."

There are trade-offs between using a Microdrive and using a card based on CompactFlash technology, also often used in small devices.

Power issues The Microdrive takes up quite a bit of power due to its rotating magnetic storage technology, Levitas says. CompactFlash cards, because of their solid-state semiconductor-storage technology, require less power and might be more attractive to consumers, she adds.

"Powerwise, the Microdrive is still a ways off from where CompactFlash is," Levitas says. Also, the Microdrive is less rugged than CompactFlash cards. "It’s rather delicate relative to the CompactFlash," she says. IBM says the unit resists shocks of up to 1500G when turned off.

Casio will support Microdrive with some of its digital cameras, while other companies will offer it as an option, Osterhout says. In the handheld PC market, Palm has not yet committed to support the Microdrive, but Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and IBM are selling compatible handheld devices.

Because the 1GB Microdrive can turn an MP3 player into a jukebox capable of storing 15 or more CDs, IBM considers MP3 a young but promising area for the hard disk.

The 1GB Microdrive will be available in limited quantities from manufacturers, including Kodak, Acer, and i2GO, in late July. IBM is also selling the Microdrive over its Web site, ShopIBM.