Fujitsu has begun initial production of a 120GB laptop hard drive.

The new drive offers 20 percent more storage capacity and several other improvements over Fujitsu's nearest 2.5-inch rival, said marketing VP Joel Hagberg. Samples of the drives are already with notebook vendors for testing and Fujitsu plans to begin shipping commercial versions of the drive during the second quarter, he said.

The jump in storage capacity was achieved by cramming data more closely together on the disk's surface. The result is an areal density of 104Gbits per square inch in the new drive. The additional improvements include a doubling of the number of times the drive head can be loaded and unloaded from the disk to 600,000, a cut in power consumption and an increase in the drive's ability to handle mechanical shocks.

While Fujitsu's announcement gives the company initial bragging rights for a 120GB notebook drive, the highly competitive nature of the storage market means it's not likely to be long before the company's rivals begin announcing similar plans.

Despite the extra pressure from rivals, the market remains good for Fujitsu, said Hagberg. In the last year-and-a-half, Fujitsu has increased its production of drives from 500,000 to 1.5 million per month in response to demand and the company has seen its market share expand as a result, said Hagberg.

During the final three months of 2004, the company shipped 4.2 million 2.5-inch drives, a 27 percent increase on the previous quarter and 88 percent increase on the fourth quarter of a year earlier, he said. As a result Fujitsu estimates it is now the number two manufacturer of 2.5-inch drives. In the enterprise 3.5-inch disk market the company shipped 1.4 million units, up 13 percent on the same quarter a year earlier, he added.