Making disk drives the star of the show
By Ed Frauenheim

Agere is working to make tiny drives the heart of MP3 players and other devices. But are nonstandard approaches worth the risk?

Semiconductor company Agere Systems is shopping around the idea of making hard drives the heart of products such as cell phones, by expanding the tasks handled by the drive component.

Bottom line: Integrating drives and handheld devices in this fashion could trim costs--a critical issue in consumer electronics. But such a custom approach could leave device makers without multiple hard drive suppliers, a risky strategy.



SOS For the Venerable Disk Drive?

Disk drive makers are in a battle to rescue profits, the Wall Street Journal reports in a front-page article today. "The TiVo video recorder, the iPod music player and the Xbox game machine all owe their existence to the same high-tech innovation: smaller, denser, cheaper disk drives. For nearly 50 years the disk-drive industry has driven advances in computers and gadgets by supplying new ways to store data. But there's one thing drive makers can't produce: sustainable profits. Even during the tech boom, when makers of other high-tech innards like software and chips feasted, drive makers collectively lost money in 1998 and 1999. More losses followed during the bust." According to the article, "[a]ll three of the main independent suppliers have been suffering. Net income at No. 3 Western Digital Corp. fell 17% in the fiscal year ended June 30. For the quarter ended that same date, Seagate Technology, the No. 1 maker, and No. 2 Maxtor Corp. each posted losses and laid off workers. Shares of the three companies are down an average of 51% from a year ago, while the Nasdaq Composite Index is down less than 1%."
The Wall Street Journal: Behind TiVo, iPod and Xbox: An Industry Struggles for Profits
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Suggestion To Read:

Magnetism shapes beauty in the heavens
      Read at

The Joseph Henry Papers Project
      is documenting the life of Joseph Henry (1797-1878), the most revered American scientist of his times and the first Secretary (director) of the Smithsonian Institution. Henry's pioneering work in electricity and magnetism helped bring about the invention of the telegraph, the electric motor, and the telephone. At the Smithsonian Institution he created the outlines of the unique research and cultural institution that we know today.

Joseph Henry's Contributions to the Electromagnet and the Electric Motor
By Roger Sherman
Museum Specialist, National Museum of American History