HARD DRIVEN

driveSeagate has a sleek new portable hard drive, the Free Agent/Go. Slender and slight and dressed in deep blue, red or silver, the drive has a capacity of 320 gigabytes and lists for $150 for the PC, $190 for the Mac. For another $25 you can get a docking station that let’s the drive sit upright. The docking station is nice but not necessary.

Okay, enough with the ooh and ah description, there’s something interesting going on here. Because at the same time we started reviewing the Seagate drive we got a tiny USB flash drive from SuperTalent (SuperTalent.com). It’s about the half the size of a stick of chewing gum, sells for less than $48 and holds eight gigabytes of data. Easily fits on a keychain. It’s not hard to do the numbers: The flash drive costs the buyer $6 per gigabyte of storage. The smallest Seagate drive costs 50 cents a gigabyte. That’s a huge difference, and as each side drops it price, it forces the other to do the same. As the hard drive capacity goes up, the cost per gigabyte goes down.

As Bugs Bunny would say: “You know of course that this means war.” On one side is the traditional hard drive, with a spinning disk inside; on the other are memory chips, which don’t do any spinning. Some day the price curves will meet, but that day is a long way off. Meanwhile, we all enjoy the benefits of this commercial battle.

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