Seagate Ships Hard Drives Made for Video

Hard-drive maker Seagate is shipping new hard drives that use a new digital video standard that, according to the company, makes them better able to store streaming video for digital video recorders (DVRs). Seagate’s new hard drives are among the industry’s first to implement the new streaming command-set adopted by the T-13 technical committee, which is responsible for all interface standards relating to the popular AT Attachment (ATA) storage interface.

In the past, various hard-drive makers, including Seagate, established proprietary ways of improving video streaming in hard drives, the company said. “Customers told Seagate they no longer want to choose between varied, incompatible methods for ensuring reliable video streaming in digital video recording devices,” the company said in a statement.

The company said it will be shipping the new drives to eight DVR makers, including Toshiba, Thomson, Sony and Pioneer.

“Actually, Seagate isn’t the only one working on this,” said industry analyst Rob Enderle. “Maxtor also has a line of drives targeted at AV types of implementations, and both vendors appear to agree that this is a growth market.”

The Technology

DVRs — like TiVo, ReplayTV and UltimateTV — let TV viewers record TV shows and temporarily pause live broadcasts. The devices rely on a continuous stream of data to produce high-quality video. However, hard drives configured for personal computers aren’t optimal for video recording applications, partly because repetitive error-checking procedures slow down video streaming.

DVRs are expected to grow in popularity. There were about 1.5 million U.S. households with DVRs in 2002, and the number should climb to about 3 million this year, according to market research firm IDC.

“As vendors bring to market ever more compelling products that allow us to divorce ourselves from the artificial schedule of TV programming — like TiVo and Replay TV did — the need for ever more capable storage to address this need will only increase,” said Enderle.

“These changes are already having an impact with lower-cost products and higher frame rates, which will become even more important as we move to HDTV,” he noted. “This is yet another indication of the changing PC market as this technology increasingly moves from its niche into the general consumer segment.”

ATA Firmware

The Seagate drives are also compatible with ATA/7 standard firmware, which was created to provide flexibility to OEMs that want to customize the drive for particular applications.

Seagate designed its new drives to meet certain consumer-electronics power requirements. According to the company, the drives use a power-management technology that draws less peak power at startup than other drives in their class, allowing the DVR manufacturers to use less-expensive components in their power architecture.

Seagate was founded in 1979 and built the industry’s first 5.25-inch hard drive in 1980. In 2002, according to the company, Seagate shipped more drives than Maxtor, Fujitsu and IBM combined.

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