Toshiba plans to begin commercial production of its 0.85in hard disk drive before the end of this year, the company said on Tuesday.

The drive, which was first unveiled earlier this year, is about the same size as an SD (Secure Digital) memory card and target applications include a new generation of smaller digital music players and other portable multimedia devices such as cellular telephones.

Specifications of the first production drives were not available but Toshiba's latest prototype drive can store up to 2GB of data and is 3.3mm thick, a Toshiba spokesman said.

Initially Toshiba will produce drives for sale to other companies for inclusion in their own products, he said. Typically it takes between three and six months for products featuring new components to appear on the market.

The drives are suited to use in portable electronics equipment for reasons beyond their size. The 0.85in drive is about one-fifth the volume and weight of its current 1.8in drives, which are used in digital music players such as Apple's iPod and sub-notebook computers. In operation it consumes around half the power and its operating shock resistance is double that of a 1.8-inch drive.

The company is positioning the new disk drive and other small size drives, such as its 1.8-inch drives, as one of its core products in its component line-up for the coming years.

Setting its goals for the period to 2010, Toshiba said it is aiming to become the leading maker of a number of component products by the end of the decade including small-size hard disk drives, DVD and HD-DVD drives, SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display) panels, multimedia system LSI chips, NAND flash memory chips and blue lasers.

Looking ahead to the end of the decade, Toshiba said it expects 0.85in hard disk drives to boast capacities of between 15GB and 30GB. Larger 1.8in drives should be available in capacities between 160GB and 320GB while 2.5in drives could be available up to 640GB and 3.5inch drives to 2TB (terabyte, a million million bytes).