Selling hard-disk drives to the leading PC makers made Conner Peripherals Inc. one of the world's fastest-growing manufacturing companies ever, reaching $1.6 billion in sales last year. But as the PC industry matures and growth slows, the drive business is following suit. This year, sales will grow only 7%, to $24 billion, predicts market researcher Disk/Trend Inc. To outpace the industry, Conner is putting a new spin on its business: It's leaping into new forms of computer-storage equipment and selling through new distribution channels.
In a flurry of announcements on June 18, the San Jose (Calif.) company said it will offer its first tape drive, which can store several billion bits of information on a cassette. Tapes are a good way for PC owners to back up data in case their disk drives fail. What's more, the company created a new division to sell more of its products through retail superstores and mail-order catalogs, where buyers increasingly purchase their PCs. But it's hardly abandoning its core business of selling to makers of desktop computers: It recently unveiled five hard-disk drive models, including a tiny, 2.5-ounce device using disks just 1.8 inches wide.