And then there were three. The once diverse hard drive market got a little smaller overnight, with Seagate announcing that it would be taking over Samsung’s hard drive business. In a mutually beneficial deal Samsung will supply the NAND flash chips for Seagate’s enterprise SSD and Hybrid drive business, while Seagate will provide Samsung with the hard drives it needs for its computer business.
This, and the recent acquisition of Hitachi’s ex-IBM hard drive division by Western Digital, means that there are now only three companies in the hard drive market. Toshiba is the third, minor player, with 10% share, leaving both Western Digital and Seagate as the main suppliers of most of the world’s hard drives.
Just what this will mean for the rapidly dropping price of storage will be fascinating. Samsung has been a long term player in the hard drive business, but in recent years it presence has been a lot more prominent in the retail hard drive market. Samsung drives have appeared to be the ones to drop in price first, so it will be interesting to see if this will change under the Seagate moniker.
The other fascinating thing will be seeing what this means for the SSD market. Solid State Drives are the main threat to traditional hard drives, although price per gigabyte is still orders of magnitude larger. Seagate currently sells a line of Pulsar branded SSDs, which are targeted purely at high end enterprise operations. For consumers it has the Momentus XT line of 2.5in drives, which it calls hybrids. They have a small amount of fast SLC flash onboard, and firmware that uses this to mirror the most accessed files on the drive.
It will also be fascinating to see what effect this has on Samsung putting Flash storage into its computing products. The newly launched luxury Series 9 laptop uses solid state storage to achieve its thin and light status, and as Samsung becomes more aggressively competitive with products like Apple’s Macbook Air, we can envisage more and more flash being used to prolong battery life and speed up PCs. Given that Samsung loves to tout the fact that it makes all the bits inside its products, relinquishing control of hard drive based storage seems to indicate that we’ll see more focus on Flash memory moving forward.