Hitachi Global Storage (HGST) has released its latest microdrive, boasting a 50 percent increase in capacity to 6GB.

But aside from its higher capacity, the drive also marks a shift in HGST's pricing for the microdrive family. The new drive will cost $299 - 40 percent lower than the initial $499 price-tag that came with Microdrives of the past. The company is also lowering the price of its 4GB Microdrive to $199.

The higher capacity drive and lower prices should increase competition in the market. HGST currently competes against Seagate, Cornice and Magicstor, with Fujitsu also threatening to enter the market.

At present, these companies are largely chasing business from manufacturers of portable audio players, like the iPod. The market for such devices was estimated to be about 12 million units in 2004 and will be about 35 million in 2008, according to a December report from IDC. "We're aiming for the music player market," said Healy. "We hope to bring the Microdrive to newer applications like cell phones in the (2006) timeframe."

The capacity increase in the new drive is possible because HGST has packed data more tightly on the disk's surface. The new drive's areal density is now 78Gb per square inch against 56.5Gb per square inch previously.

HGST announced plans to have an even higher capacity Microdrive out in the second half of this year, offering between 8GB and 10GB and will also drop the Compact Flash interface for a ZIF connector of the type favored by consumer electronics makers.