Toshiba plans to double production of its 1.8-inch hard drives – used by Apple in the iPod – it revealed yesterday.

The company also announced that it is considering entering the market for 1-inch drives, citing strong demand for the small drives from makers of portable digital electronics devices.

"Most of the demand comes from the mobile audio players and mini-type personal computers," said Midori Suzuki, a spokeswoman for Toshiba in Tokyo.

As a result, the Tokyo company, which recently shipped its 3-millionth 1.8-inch drive, is planning to raise monthly production to 600,000 units per month by March 2004.

Toshiba said it is also considering production of 1-inch drives. Such drives are small enough to be encased in a CompactFlash card form factor. That market is currently dominated by the Microdrive, which is produced by Hitachi after it purchased IBM's disk drive business earlier this year, although there are several other competitors including China's GS Magicstor, which has recently begun aggressively marketing its products.

Toshiba currently produces versions of the 1.8-inch drive in 5GB, 10GB, 15GB, 20GB, 30GB and 40GB capacities and sees more demand at the higher end, although it believes lower capacity products are still attracting some attention because of their lower cost.

Much of the extra production will be outsourced, with the majority going to Matsushita Kotobuki Electronics Industries (MKE). The company is a unit of Matsushita Electric Industrial, better known by its Panasonic brand name, and began manufacturing drives for Toshiba at its factory in Indonesia earlier this year.