Disk drive leader Seagate has joined the iVDR (Information Versatile Disk for Removable usage) consortium as a board member. Seagate doesn't make a removable hard drive - yet - but it's showing a removable cartridge drive as a concept at CES.

The iVDR group, formed in 2002 by mostly Japanese companies, is centred on the concept of removable hard drives. Two specifications have been produced by iVDR, one for the cartridge type designed with portability in mind, and the other for built-in but still removable drives embedded inside equipment.

Dr. Toshiaki Hioki, iVDR Consortium chairman said: "The iVDR Consortium is very happy to include Seagate Technology as a Board Member of the iVDR Consortium. With the worldwide market reach of Seagate and long list of products and partnerships, the Seagate brand brings a considerable amount of experience and expertise to the group."

The consortium's removable cartridge specification identifies three types of disk: the 110 x 80mm standard, the 67 x 800mm iVDR Mini, sharing the same socket, and the smaller and thinner 50mm square iVDR Micro with a different socket.

The built-in specification envisages three disk formats: 3.5-inch; 2.5-inch; and 1.8-inch. These formats do not have the cartridge of the general iVDR formats.

The existing removable hard drive leader is probably the ProStor RDX, sold by Tandberg and Dell, with 2.5-inch drives housed in shock-resistant cartridges and slotting into docks in, for example, 3.5-inch drive bays. ProStor, now with 300GB capacity, has recently released an archive system.

Iomega's drive-less Rev format is another removable hard disk format. In media unit terms Imega may well be the removable disk market leader.

However ProStor is not a member of the iVDR consortium and the RDX product is not compatible with any iVDR specification. Another vendor with removable hard drive technology, two of them in fact, is Imation, which also manufactures and markets ProStor's RDX, with its Odyssey and Ulysses products. It isn't in iVDR either. Nor is Iomega and neither is Western Digital.

Seagate is listed on the iVDR website as an executive member.

By joining iVDR Seagate will help develop an industry standard for removable cartridge drives and gives the concept additional legitimacy.

However removable disk cartridge users now face competing standards. On the one hand there is the de facto ProStor one, supported by Dell, Imation and Tandberg, and not tied to any hard drive manufacturer. Secondly there is the iVDR one which has no mainstream product or acceptability yet but does have HDD industry heavyweights behind it. Hitachi Maxell announced the first iVDR disk product in March 2007.

Another potential factor affecting removable disk drives is the oncoming flash-based solid state drive technology. Both the iVDR Micro and the 1.8-inch built-in iVDR formats could be impacted by it. Flash product manufacturer Samsung is an iVDR member.

The iVDR consortium has developed iVDR-Secure for distributing copyright-protected digital content. This, together with Seagate support, may accelerate its progress.