• Apple Sees a Dismal Time for Hard Disk Drives


    The hard disk drive may become more scarce as Thailand companies suffer from floods.

    Hard disk drives are the main storage units that hold information on almost every personal computer. They are an important part of the computer that allows the machine to write down data using binary machine language. More importantly, information is saved in bytes. Hard disk drives have a reputation for being very high in the number of bytes that they can store. Flash storage solid state drives don't come close to the number of bytes that a hard disk drive can hold and for that, hard disk drives are the primary choice for media storage while people use generally small to medium sized solid state drives for boot. What this means is that solid state drives are convenient for loading just the operating system and all of your applications on, that way they will launch faster. Additionally, you can use a rather small sized solid state drive to do this anywhere from 64-128GB. In doing so, you relinquish storage. This is where hard disk drives shine and is the primary reason that people choose to load media on them. It works as a hybrid of the two, where you can launch your computer, and its applications very quickly, and then have a ton of storage for things that you do inside of your applications (for example, videos from video editing in Final Cut Pro).

    As solid state drives (or all kinds of flash memory in general) becomes cheaper and replaces hard drives in numerous devices; personal computers, iPods, tablets, and more hard disk drives are becoming so increasingly cheap that people have been gobbling up the 1-2TB storage units for as little as $40-80. But with hard disk drives keeping their rather low read and write speeds and with solid state drives bringing speeds up to ten times faster than traditional hard disk drives, they're hard to resist for the PC-tinkering drag racers.

    Apple realizes the speed and potential of solid state drives over hard disk drives. Apple sells their MacBook Airs standard with flash storage for optimal boot times and quick program launch speeds. In addition to speed, flash memory sees a greater battery performance than hard disk drives because there are no moving parts that need to run at all times for the device to work. Despite the fact that these upsides to flash storage make it a, "gimme, gimme" by consumers, that's not the reason why Apple sees hard drives as becoming a scarcity. In fact it has nothing to do with performance, or even sales at all.

    Some of Apple's major hard disk drive producers come from Thailand; Thailand supports around 25% of the world's hard disk drive production (iSuppli). Thailand has been bombarded with floods, many of which are forcing hard disk drive manufacturing companies to shut down and cease services. Due to the country bracing for more tides and floods, companies need to stop producing and begin temporarily closing. Floods are expected to stay around for over a month. This is the worst flooding to affect Thailand for almost half of a century.

    With hard disk drives becoming scarce until companies can get up and running again after the floods, Apple will have a hard time delivering hard disk drives to their consumers; putting more emphasis on solid state drives (which are more expensive), "Like many others, we source many components from Thailand and have multiple factories that supply these components. There are several factories that are currently not operable, and the recovery timeline for these factories is not known at this point. We would say that our primary exposure is on the Mac...I'm virtually certain there will be an overall industry shortage of disk drives as a result of the disaster" (Cook, Apple Inc.). Inevitably, Apple, like many other PC manufacturers, are going to have to deal with some turbulence.

    One of the biggest problems has to do with hard drive motors. The company Nidec is a supplier of around 70-80 percent of the world's hard drive motors. Nidec is one of the companies suffering from floods in Thailand that builds hard drive motors for Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi, and Toshiba. These four companies also have factories in Thailand which need to halt production due not only to the floods but also because of shortage of the motors they need from Nidec.

    Because the floods in Thailand are expected to be a short-term event of about a month, hard disk drive prices are not expected to rise at noticeable amounts. The only time you would have to worry about rising prices is if after a month another problem strikes and causes the companies to continue halting production. As of now, the companies already have a few weeks of stock to keep shipping out, so production will be slow to start again however there's enough inventory to keep the demand running for a while. Solid state drive manufacturers in Thailand are not expected to be as affected by the floods as hard disk drive manufacturers.

    Sources: CNET
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