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Hard driving manufacturer

CASTLEWOOD founder and industry pioneer Syed Iftikar predicts that removable cartridge drives will overtake sales of hard disk drives and revolutionise the storage industry in the future.

``The current market for hard disks is about 100 million units per annum worldwide. And we are projecting a 10 million market for ORB drives. This will switch as removable cartridges become more popular. Video is the new face of technology,'' he says.

He adds that 80% of the population does not need more than 2GB worth of storage, other than professionals that make up a small number in the market.

``I firmly believe for the next generation product, consumers do not need a hard drive when you can buy a removable drive for much cheaper over the long run. You don't need to replace your hard drive every year,'' he says.

He adds that CD-ROM took five years to become popular as it was priced at US$250 when it was first introduced.

``Only when it broke the US$99 barrier it became popular. And DVD-ROM drives are going through the same thing -- they're too expensive. Price is the magic,'' he points out.

However the ORB removable cartridge disk drive is priced at US$149 for OEMs integrating it onto PCs while the cartridges itself are only US$29.95 apiece.

``Over time we expect to sell our drives at US$99 and through our joint venture with Sony, we will introduce cartridges that can store and play a full length movie at only US$10. If you buy three cartidges that's a total of 6GB at US$130,'' says Syed Iftikar.

``So someday, instead of using the VHS tape, you'll be using the ORB drive with digital quality video, sound and no time delay. No more rewinds, all instantaneous.''

``You can actually type in each track like the CD as the disk is actually partitioned to your movie,'' he claims.

Syed Iftikar believes that the company is capable of reaching attractive price points as the demand for the product is big and that every OEM the company has spoken to has expressed the need for big quantities.

Castlewood also has an advantage because its technology supplier is IBM who is supporting them with very advanced MR heads.

``The next level of products will be between 2GB and 10GB, with 10GB coming onstream in the year 2000 with giant magneto-resistive technology (GMR),'' he says.

Syed Iftikar dismissed competing vendors who are also moving toward embracing MR technology in their products.

``Iomega is designing a product with MR but it is expensive whereas Syquest has a low-cost product which has no capacity ... but with ORB, you can copy files faster than a hard drive and at a cheaper price. No other product except the Quantum drive is equal to ours.

``And as long as we continue that strategy and we don't fall off that path, then we are safe,'' he adds. -- ANITA MATTHEWS

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