Ultrathin and tablet PCs to drive demand for thin hard drives

PCs can only go thin and light if components do so too, and IHS predicts that there will be an increasing demand for 5.0- and 7.0-millimeter HDDs and SSHDs over the coming years.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Interest in thin and light PCs will generate a healthy demand over the next few years for svelte hard drives.

Worldwide shipments of 5.0- and 7.0-millimeter HDDs found mobile PCs will hit 133 million units by 2017, up from just 5 million last year, according to a Storage Space Brief from analytics firm IHS.

The new class of ultraslim HDDs are expected to displace the much thicker 9.5-mm drives that are currently popular in mobile devices. Shipments of the thicker 9.5-mm HDDs for mobile PCs will be eroded to 79 million in 2017, down from 245 million units in 2012.

(Source: IHS)

Demand for hybrid HDDs, which combines an SSD with older HDD technology, is also expected to increase.

"Use of these new thin HDDs and hybrid HDDs will proliferate because these devices are smaller in size and have the capability to improve overall storage performance— important variables in an age that emphasizes smaller form factors as well as optimal speed at affordable prices," said Fang Zhang, storage systems analyst at IHS.

"Both the thinner HDDs along with solid-state hybrid drives (SSHD) could even start finding acceptance in ultrathin PCs and tablet PCs—two products that now mostly use solid-state drives as their storage element. Hard disks have lost market share to SSDs, which offer better performance and can be more easily used to achieve a thinner and lighter form factor crucial to tablets and ultrathin PCs."

This year, total SSD shipments will increase by almost 90 percent to 64.6 million units. Compare this to HDD, where shipments are expected to decline 5 percent to 545.8 million units. However, IHS believes that the new and thinner HDDs could help stem losses of hard disks, especially if "their costs can fall to 10-15 percent of a tablet or to 10-20 percent of an ultrathin PC," IHS believes.

All three of the storage players – Western Digital, Seagate, and Toshiba – either have, or are expected to have, thin HDDs and SSHD on the market, ready to take advantage of this wave.

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