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Tuesday, May 07, 2013
HDD vs. SSD: The Battle for PC Storage Supremacy Continues


Hard disk drives (HDD) for PCs will continue to face declining shipments this year while rival solid state drives (SSD) in computers exert pressure on their much bigger competitors with outsized triple-digit growth, according to an IHS iSuppli report.

PC HDD shipments in 2013 are forecast to decline to 436.9 million units, down 8 percent from 475.4 million last year. In comparison, SSD shipments in PCs will jump to 68.9 million units, up a resounding 122 percent from 31.1 million. The inimical decline vs. growth pattern between the two segments will continue next year and in the years ahead, as shown in Figure xx. From 2012 to 2017, the compound annual growth rate for PC HDD shipments will be in negative territory at -2.9 percent, while that for PC SSDs comes out to an enviable 48.0 percent.

The HDD industry is suffering the multilayered effects of a depressed market, resulting from a weak global economy, upgrades not being made for desktop and notebook PCs alike as replacement cycles get extended, and cannibalization by flashier devices like mobile handsets and tablets. HDD revenue is expected to reach $26.4 billion in 2013, down from last year's record of $30.6 billion that resulted mainly from higher average selling prices after the devastating floods in Thailand.

Meanwhile the SSD space has been extremely competitive, closing out last year on record-high revenue and with the vigorous enterprise SSD segment enjoying dramatic expansion. The fourth quarter last year was a particularly strong period for computer-related SSDs with shipments of 12 million units, boosting year-end revenue to $6.8 billion. By 2017, PC SSD industry revenue of $22.6 billion will come close to narrowing the gap with PC HDD revenue of $23.5 billion. The SSD space includes the cache SSD segment where NAND flash is used alongside a hard disk drive, as well as a separate segment in which NAND flash is embedded on top of an HDD in an integrated, hybrid form factor.

Contending segments enjoy their own advantages

Even so, the HDD industry can look to several ongoing and forthcoming positive developments.

Despite the rapid adoption of SSDs, hard disk drives will continue to dominate the overall storage market because of their cost advantage on higher densities and dollars-per-gigabyte pricing. HDD shipments also will gradually pick up in the second half this year as Windows 8 and Ultrabooks gain traction among consumers, after failing to perform as expected upon launch last year.

In the HDD enterprise segment, competition is set to heat up as archrivals Western Digital and Seagate Technology contend for leadership, and Western Digital is expected to launch a 5-terabyte HDD sporting the new helium technology for higher disk capacity and lower power consumption. Other new HDD technologies are on the horizon as well, including nearline and hybrid hard disk drives.

HDDs also will continue to play a major role in cloud storage, remaining the final destination for the majority of digital content.

For SSDs, Ultrabooks and other similarly built ultrathin notebook PCs will continue to be a major theme in growth this year, especially as Intel?s upcoming Haswell processors bring about a robust combination of performance and efficiency for the superthin computers. Combined with popular touch-screen and convertible form factors, Ultrabooks are likely to become more compelling as the machines attempt to lure consumers away from smartphones and tablets. For PC makers, lower NAND flash pricing and increased SSD utilization will be keys to growing SSD volume.

While HDDs retain dominance despite declining shipments and SSDs maintain impressive growth momentum, a third segment of the storage industry is mired in poor results and deteriorating prospects. Optical disk drives (ODD), used for playing CDs and DVDs in PCs, continue to worsen on both shipment and revenue terms. ODD shipments this year will amount to 262.6 million units, down from 287.4 million in 2012; while revenue will slip to $7.4 billion from $8.6 billion. By 2017, ODD shipments will shrink a further 100,000 units compared to 2012 levels, and revenue will reduce by half.


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