Seagate Technology Inc must be very excited about the technology behind Quinta Corp’s OAW Optically Assisted Winchester disk drive technology, because yesterday it acquired the San Jose, California-based company, which is only just over one year old, for a maximum of $325m. Seagate, which was already the holder of a minority stake in Quinta, wants to get its hands on the company’s development work, which has focused on the integration of optical, magnetic and telecommunications technology with the aim of building what Quinta was calling a new class of high-capacity, cost-effective disk drive storage devices. Seagate says it needs the technology to keep up with the increasing demand for storage fueled by applications such as online storage, data warehousing and audio visual systems. The OAW technology is said to enable storage densities three to five times greater than current Winchester technology, without loss of high-performance data access. At its core is a new head design which integrates optical elements into a Winchester-style flying head, with the lens focusing a laser beam onto the media to assist writing, reading and tracking processes. The head flies above the media almost ten times higher than typical magneto-resistive heads, which minimizes the chance of unwanted head/disk contacts. There is also the potential to use multiple heads using what Quinta describes as a fine servo and advanced light delivery system. Quinta was founded and run by storage veterans such as chief executive officer Steven Kitrosser, ex chief executive of both Micronics Computers Inc and Maxtor Corp, and Robert Teal, co- founder of both Quantum Corp and Maxtor. It raised over $50m when it was formed in April 1996, and won the backing of Seagate, Read-Rite Corp and venture capital firms. Shareholders of Quinta will receive cash payments totaling $230m on completion, plus additional payments of up to $95m if product development and production milestones are achieved. Seagate says it will incur a charge of between $180m and $215m in the quarter in which the transaction closes, as a result of write-offs of in-process research and development. But Seagate won’t be keeping the technology entirely to itself: Qunita has been working with a number of new generation storage suppliers, and that work is expected to continue.