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Consolidation of Hard Disk Drive Makers (Part 5) – Into The Future

As the number of solid state drives (SSD) increase, prices are falling steeply while Seagate, Western Digital and to a lesser extent Toshiba rely on artificially high prices of hard disk drives and shorter warranties to make a quick profit.

into the future

Hard drive manufacturers have been consolidating their operations for the best part of two decades. Back in the 1990s there were at least 10 hard drive manufacturers including names such Quantum, Maxtor, Conner, Fujitsu and even IBM. Back in 1980s Apple was making hard disk drives! Even in 2011 there were five players in the hard drive market, with Samsung, Seagate, HGST (Hitachi) and Western Digital taking the vast majority of sales, Toshiba usually left with the scraps. However, Hitachi’s decision to sell to Western Digital leaving Seagate no option but to buy Samsung’s hard drive business maintaing market share parity.
On the other hand, Samsung’s willingness to sell its hard drive business was a sure sign that the game was up for hard drive manufacturers. The Korean giant cashed in its chips and concentrated on SSDs proving again to be a serious player. Eventually five became three, with Toshiba gaining parts of Hitachi’s business only after Western Digital cut a deal with regulators in order to maintain the illusion of a competitive market.

Hard drive industry has consolidated to save itself. Yet 2011 Thailand flooding showed to industry watchers and consumers what this self-preservation was really all about. The ability to dictate market terms. Hard disk drive manufacturers even consolidated the data recovery industry as Seagate now “offers” data recovery services and Toshiba and Western Digital have their preffered provider program. These days you buy hard drives from the same companies you will have to address when you suffer from data loss. Currently hard drives can store as much as 10TB of data and it is expected that hard drives will hold up to 100TB in the next decade. Since hard disk drive manufacturers obviously have their hands on the production as well as the recovery the question becomes obvious. Why would they make reliable hard disk drives?

 

Into The Future and New Dilemas

 

Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba make their attempts to get into the SSD business. However, SSD vendors are popping up everywhere and competition generally meaning lower prices. Intel was once considered the leader SSD industry, with its legendary X25 series. Today Intel has largely been surpassed both in terms of performance and price by firms that buy up its NAND chips and do a better job of fiddling with the firmware of the on-board controllers.

All of this led to companies like Crucial, Corsair, OCZ, Kingston and even Samsung to participate in a good old fashioned race to beat each other on price while offering multi-year warranties. Prices have dropped so far that one eBay retailer is selling Crucial MX100 512GB SATA3 Internal MLC Solid State Drive for about 200 US Dollars, while still offering three year warranties.

Of course, SSDs are still far more expensive per gigabyte when pitted against hard drives. The question is, do you really want to store 3TB of data on a hard drive that the manufacturer is only guaranteeing for just one year? Another question follows, just how many systems need multi-terabyte hard drives. A number of consumer storage vendors such as Dlink, Data Robotics, Netgear, Lacie, Iomega, Synology and Qnap have done a roaring trade in network attached storage boxes because more and more consumers want to share data among devices in the house rather than having it plugged away on a single device.

With Mega, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and many other outfits offer cloud storage for free, and despite legitimate privacy concerns provide another convienant storage alternative.

The point Seagate and Western Digital need to realise is that for laptops, Windows 8 tablets and even PCs, an 256GB SSD offers far more than a significantly slower hard drive.

Solid state drive prices are falling so fast that in less than two years there is every chance that a 1TB SSD will cost around 200 US Dollars. At this point the main focus in data recovery industry will be shifting to memory chips. The ability to work on raw data looking for patterns will surpass current data recovery techniques traditionally done in cleanrooms using specialized tools of trade. Problems such as stuck spindle or head-crash will belong to computer history archives. The very first machine Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace used to recover lost data from a damaged punch card was far more advanced than the one damaged card was used for. The tools we use for Solid State Drive Data Recovery (SSD Data Recovery and NAND Data Recovery) are always one step ahead the of the technology used to store data. Meaning the data recovery industry have a great future and it should not be left to the mercy of few. If this happens we all loose.

 

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