Toshiba has launched a new 1.8in USB 2.0 Mobile External Hard Drive line at CES. The product line will be offered in 60GB, 80GB and 120GB models, each with a USB cable. The devices will ship next spring, said officials of the Toshiba Storage Device Division, a business unit of Toshiba. The new mobile external hard drives will run encryption and backup software to boost data protection, Toshiba said.

IDC analyst Wolfgang Schlichting said Toshiba's entry into the 1.8in. external hard drive arena resulted from its search for new business in the wake of slowing sales of Apple's iPod, which use Toshiba's 1.8in internal drives.

Schlichting did note that the shelf life for the 1.8in external disk may also be declining with the growing demand for flash-based storage.

"The 1in. [hard drive] is now disappearing and fell to the increased capacity of flash-based storage solutions. In the long run, that could be the fate of 1.8 as well," said Schlichting.

Schlichting said that end-user demand to store data on 2.5in and 3.5in hard drives remains strong. Leading manufacturers of hard drives appear to be taking notice. Recent moves by Hitachi and Fujitsu signal that vendors are taking steps to move away from building 1.8in and smaller hard drives in favor of improving flash memory development.

Toshiba, which said it has shipped 60 million 1.8in internal hard drives, remains committed to the technology, said Maciek Brzeski, vice president of marketing for the Toshiba Storage Device Division.

"We are strongly committed to this form factor. It is a new market that is evolving and we are sad to see competitors withdraw from [small form-factor hard drive] markets," noted Brzeski.