There has been a lot of chatter lately on different investing news sites about the Western Digital/Hitachi merger, and it is funny to read investment reporters perspectives on the future earnings potential of these “old style, spinning platter” companies. The following is my perspective of what is going on, and where I see this technology going.
First, everyone has observed the rapid uptake of the tablet PC, starting with the iPad, the Asus eee tablet, HP’s tablet offerings, and others. I think the uptake is interesting, but I wonder about continuing use statistics. I am in a computer related field and none of my coworkers has given up the laptop for a tablet either at home or work.
Next, some investment journalists have noted that most tablet pc options currently use solid state drives instead of old spinning platter drives.
An article on SeekingAlpha linked to a Wall street journal article, likely talking about how tablets might bring about the death of the spinning platter drive manufacturers. I could not read the article as it is behind a pay wall, but I feel inclined to laugh at that premise posed in the seeking alpha entry.
I understand most tablets are using SSDs at this point, but many laptops, most desktops, and nearly all servers on the planet are still using the good old spinning platter drive which are WD, Seagate, Hitachi’s bread and butter. Saying 1 tiny class of computers is going to dictate the direction of the rest of the computer market is crazy. There is a reason why tablets are using SSD’s and other computers are not, and that is because tablet utility is severly limited right now, and people are not using them to download lots of content or play video games or run websites. Everyone who isn’t buying devices for the novelty of them is buying spinning platter drives. Once there are 2TB SSD’s that can survive 200 million writes and cost $79, I will believe the end is nigh for spinning platters. Not until then.
I think SSd’s will come around in price, but the huge hurdle they have now is how to overcome the limited write lifetime they currently have. It will be interesting to watch as the first iPads start having problems as the SSd’s exhaust their write lifetimes. This problem is being addressed as rapidly as possible by everyone in the SSD supply chain, but there is some possibility that a good solution is still a ways off, or may even involve a ssd/spinning platter combo drive!
The point is, it seems that investors are trying to start a movement now that has all but written off spinning platter drive makers, but I would argue that in 2011, their best few years may still be ahead. I would guess if your investment timeframe is 10+ years, you are probably ok to divest from magnetic media companies, but less than that probably still holds some upside.
disclosure: No positions current or intended in the next 30 days in any of the companies mentioned in this article.
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