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Will Your Next Tablet Have a Hard Drive Inside?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Seagate (STX - Get Report) has announced a new super-thin, super-small, 500 GB hard drive designed especially for use in tablets.

Google (GOOG - Get Report) Android tablets to be exact.

Current tablets use solid-state memory as internal storage. Most tablets come with 16 GB, 32 GB and in some cases 64 GB of internal memory. The limiting factor is the price of solid-state storage. Prices are slowly dropping but memory chips are still more expensive than hard drives. That's why Seagate created the Ultra Mobile HD drive.

Seagate shares were advancing 1.75% to $40.15 at 2:42 pm in New York.

On the outside, the storage device is only 5 mm thick. That's less than a quarter of an inch. We're talking wafer sized. Seagate says the SATA device is capable of data transfers in the 6 GB-per second range. That's pretty fast. And, the company also brags that the device is capable of storing seven times the data/files of solid-state flash memory currently installed inside tablets.

Placing a hard drive inside a tablet brings to light a number of questions. First of all - can a mechanical hard drive stand up to the near-constant movements of a tablet while in use? Laptop and desktop computers usually sit on a desk or a lap while in use. Seagate believes it has that covered with a technologies such as thermal monitors, Zero-Gravity Sensors (ZGS) along with "gyroscopic motion support".

500 GB is a lot of storage for a tablet, but as users begin to download and store high-resolution music files, videos and full-length movies that much storage could be filled quickly.

The most important limiting factor could be price. While solid-state memory is usually more expensive than hard drives, 500 GB of flash memory might double the price of the tablet. Even if the Seagate Ultra Mobile HDD is the same price as 32 GB or 64 GB of solid-state memory it could turn out to be a GB-per-dollar bargain.

Seagate was careful to say this new device is meant for Android tablets. When TheStreet asked a corporate representative whether these hard drives might find their way into Apple (AAPL - Get Report) products, we were told the company would prefer not to talk about possible products the day before Apple's big announcements in San Francisco.

Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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