Seagate and Toshiba probably together make up the bulk of the laptop drives that ship in today’s market. Sure, you’ll find a few Western Digitals and even a Samsung floating about (from older stock, mind you) but the other two are sitting pretty with a firm grip on the market. Seagate in particular makes laptop drives with speeds from 5400 to 7200RPM and even has a range of hybrid drives, with the Momentus XT packing anywhere from 4 to 8GB of SLC NAND memory to speed up cache accesses. But towards the end of the year, Seagate is abandoning development of new 9.7mm 7200RPM mechanical hard drives in favour of their Momentus Thin and XT lines.Even Western Digital, with its very thin Caviar Blue and Black hybrid drives.
Abandoning their regular mechanical lineup is something I expected, but certainly not this quickly. Seagate seems to have preempted a move by its competitors to move to solid state storage and help rapidly drive down prices and adoption rates. While most discerning PC and laptop buyers often turn to their own solutions when it comes to SSDs, it wouldn’t hurt for a behemoth like Samsung to start making cheaper drives based off their already-awesome enterprise ranges. Even the cheapest SSDs maintain a healthy performance advantage over any regular hard drive if you don’t look too closely at sustained write performance.
All you really have to do is make a cheap SSD with sustained write speeds 50 to 100MB/s higher than conventional mechanical drives. People will be all over that like Pooh Bear to honey, or flies to a corpse. Or a zombie to your juicy squishy brain.
In addition, Seagate doesn’t have a consumer SSD lineup, if you discount the NAND in the Momentus XT. There are other companies like OCZ, Plextor and even Intel who solely create SSDs and they see rather healthy returns on them. For Seagate, it must be hard seeing your line of performance laptop hard drives get chucked for a faster solution, relegating the more expensive mechanical models to merely performing storage duties. That’s probably why the 5400RPM offerings will be left intact, as well as the Momentus Thin, because it’s probably going to be the only platter-based drive to fit into the next generation of Ultrabooks. These cheaper and slower drives consume less energy and are near-silent in their operation.
If Seagate and Western Digital both start to get stuck into SSDs, you can expect a rapid downward spiral of NAND and controller pricing as adoption rates soar thanks to agreements with OEMs. Once that happens, I give it a year before you can look at a 500GB Barracuda and a 500GB SSD (not necessarily the fastest one) and have to nitpick between the two because they’re the same price. That will be a happy day.