Hitachi Global Storage Technologies aims to double shipments of hard drives for consumer electronics this year to about 16 million units as the market for desktop and notebook computers matures. The company, which has manufacturing facilities in Shenzhen, shipped about eight million hard drives for consumer gadgets last year, helped by the popularity of devices such as personal video recorders and Apple's iPod mini. It shipped 46.6 million hard drives overall. 'The growth and excitement in this industry is coming from the consumer electronics sector,' said John Osterhout, director of consumer electronic products. Market researcher iSuppli expects growth in the consumer electronics segment to far outpace the overall industry. Shipments of hard drives for consumer devices are forecast to grow 35 per cent annually, reaching 89 million units by 2008. The overall industry is expected to expand 10.5 per cent a year through 2008, when 462 million drives are forecast to be shipped. Hitachi will concentrate its resources on three product areas: digital media players, personal video recorders and handsets. The last segment, however, is not yet a proven market as just one manufacturer - South Korea's Samsung - has announced plans to incorporate a hard disk drive in a mobile phone. Nevertheless, Hitachi anticipates growing sales from handset makers as consumers - turned off by the high cost of flash memory - demand inexpensive storage for their video and music files. Earlier this year the company announced a new version of its one-inch drive, nicknamed 'Mikey', that is lighter and 20 per cent smaller than earlier generations. The product, which will have a capacity of eight to 10 megabytes, is expected to be available in the second half of the year. 'The design specifications for that device are the result of talking with mobile phone manufacturers,' Mr Osterhout said, adding that handsets equipped with hard drives were expected to appear in large numbers next year. In its forecasts for this year, Hitachi expects shipments of one-inch drives to double from 4 million units last year, sales of 1.8-inch drives to triple from about 1 million devices, and shipments of 3.5-inch drives - which are ideal for personal video recorders - to increase by 50 per cent from 1.2 million. More orders are expected to come from set-top box manufacturers, which are incorporating recording functions in their devices to capitalise on the popularity of products such as TiVo. 'More and more we're seeing set-top boxes take on hard disk drives. The big cable providers are now offering this option,' Mr Osterhout said. Hitachi last week opened design studios in Shenzhen, Taiwan, Japan, Europe and the United States. The purpose is to help consumer electronics manufacturers grapple with the design challenges of incorporating hard drives in their products. These challenges include extending battery life and working within a limited footprint.