Consumer electronics may get smaller and cheaper, thanks to a three-year-old company based in Longmont, Colo. Using inexpensive materials and cutting costs in the assembly process, Cornice Inc. has designed circuitry that can fit 1.5 gigabytes of storage onto a one-inch square that sells for about $70. Its drives hold 15,000 MP3 songs -- more storage than IBM's Microdrive at about 40% of the cost. Analysts say they are ideal for hybrid devices -- think a cell phone-MP3 player-camera all in one. They also buzz about their potential for a TiVo-inspired car MP3 radio. Currently, dashboards are too crowded for additional circuitry; they could accommodate Cornice's wee drives, however, enabling car owners to store music files and download radio broadcasts. So far, the company, which partners with Texas Instruments, has deals to put drives in 10 MP3 players (including the RCA LYRA Micro Jukebox and the Rio Eigen Executive) and a Samsung video camera. GPS devices will follow. "You could fit an entire continent on one inch," says Cornice CEO Kevin Magenis. For the drives to truly succeed, however, they must challenge the dominance of flash memory, a digital storage technology that takes up the same amount of space. But by being considerably cheaper and suitable for brave new gadgets, Cornice drives should find an opening.
Sep 1, 2003