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Business | August 04, 2011

Will super-slim save the HDD?

Seagate Technology LLC’s introduction of a super-slim hard disk drive (HDD) could help the HDD industry stave off the incursion of solid-state drives (SSDs) in the notebook personal computers (PCs) and media tablet markets, according to data from the IHS iSuppli Memory and Storage Service from information and analysis provider IHS.
“Although shipments of SSDs for notebooks will be miniscule compared to HDDs during the next few years, the solid state drives are shaving off points of market share that are critical to maintaining the growth of the hard drive business,” said Fang Zhang, analyst, storage systems, for IHS. “Furthermore, SSDs are universally employed in media tablets, which are eating into the sales of notebook and netbook PCs. Seagate’s new Momentus Thin HDD represents an attempt by the hard drive industry to answer the challenge of SSDs in notebooks—and even in media tablets—by undercutting the cost of solid-state drives while providing higher densities.”



SSD shipments in notebooks will rise to 16.8 million units in 2015, up from 4.7 million in 2010, as presented in the figure below. This will represent only a single-digit percentage of the notebook storage market compared to HDDs through the year 2015.

However, this small percentage is impacting the growth of the notebook HDD market.

The notebook HDD market set to expand at a 9.7 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2010 to 2015. The combined market for HDDs and SDDs will rise at a CAGR of 10.2 percent. This indicates the solid-state drives will shave off half a percentage point of growth from the notebook HDD market during the five year period.

The rising sales of media tablets could have an even bigger impact on notebook HDD sales. Media tablets, which employ flash memory for storage, are expected to have a negative impact on sales of notebook PCs, and thus the HDDs used in them.

Seagate’s Momentus Thin HDD could find acceptance in netbook and notebook computers, preventing SSDs from making further inroads. However, the near term opportunity for these drives in tablets is limited. HDD-based models are expected to account for 2 percent or less of the total tablet market in 2012, IHS predicts.

A Momentus event for storage

Seagate in June announced its Momentus Thin HDD, a 2.5-inch drive that is only 7 millimeters thick. The Momentus is set to be available in September. The HDD has capacities ranging from 160GB to 320GB, with speeds of 7200RPM and 5400RPM, and 16MB of cache.

The thin form factor makes the Momentus suitable for mobile platforms.

However, the Momentus may really set itself apart from SSDs in terms of cost and capacity.

Seagate said the Momentus Thin HDDs are being used in what it called the world’s first handheld tablet computers with hard drives: the G9 8- and 10-inch tablets from ARCHOS. The manufacturers’ suggested retail prices for the ARCHOS 80 G9 and ARCHOS 101 GB tablets are $279 and $349. Seagate said that was a significantly lower price than competitive flash-based tablets, which cost between $349 to $829, with densities from 16GB to 64GB.

A tablet using the Momentus Thin HDD can have 10 times the storage capacity of a flash-based tablet. Momentus Thin HDD-based tablets also can be significantly lighter than HDD-based netbooks due to the reduction of the 2.5-inch drive size.

HDD disadvantages

The disadvantages of HDD-based tablets include a potentially shorter battery life, a longer boost time and a relatively heavy weight compared to flash-based tablets. These drawbacks may serve as a disincentive to some tablet users who require speed and mobility.

© Graph: IHS iSuppli

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