The camera storage media business has changed significantly since IBM wowed the industry with a capacity of 1GB in the CompactFlash card format back in 2000. Now, 1GB cards are commonplace, while HGST, the company formed by Hitachi for the hard drive business it took over from IBM, isn't even the first to market with a 4GB CompactFlash card. Lexar gets those bragging rights.
As the previous section describes, the Microdrive, at any capacity, is no longer universally quicker than competing flash memory CompactFlash cards, as it was in the early days. Durability should be improved, thanks to smart design changes in the latest generation of Microdrive. But again, flash memory Compactflash should still be able to better withstand the jolts typical of on-the-go photography.
What's left for the Microdrive to really call its own? Price.
With a suggested retail price of US$499, and an initial street price of about US$470, the 4GB Microdrive is a fraction of the street price of its main competitor, the Lexar 4GB 40X WA. That card sells for about US$1230 at reputable photo retailers in the US. Even the Lexar 2GB 40X WA is more, at about US$550 in the US after a rebate is applied. The 4GB Microdrive has a cost-per-MB that we're sure will be enticing to amateur and pro photographers alike. And with 6GB Microdrives on the roadmap for 2004, Hitachi is likely to retain a cost advantage over flash memory for some time to come.
The Hitachi 4GB Microdrive, including a CompactFlash-to-PC Card adapter, is available now in limited quantities. The Hitachi 2GB Microdrive is expected to ship in late November 2003 at the earliest. The Microdrive section of the HGST web site contains a wealth of technical information on the new drives.