Disrupted Industries: What Does the Future Hold for Hard Disk Drives? [SERIES]

This is the third in a series of blog posts assessing how industries respond to competing technologies and how their strategies, or lack thereof, are structured around dealing with these external threats. The series examines the impact of the free economy and considers the implications of Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail” of the demand curve on established industries and companies with “brick and mortar” business models. As this is a series, it’s worth reading this introductory blog post first.

There is a saying that all good things must come to an end. However, it always seemed as if hard disk drives (HDDs) were the exception to the rule and that as long as there were people buying PCs, there would always be a need for HDDs. Unfortunately, this may no longer be the case as there are signs that the HDD industry faces substantial challenges as it copes with decreased demand, and competing technologies. So, is this yet another example of an industry on the decline? More importantly, what are the immediate threats and do hard disk drive manufacturers face an uncertain future?

Perhaps it’s too soon to assume that HDDs are on their way out. However, it’s hard to ignore the threat posed by competing technologies and the impact each has had on the HDD market.

Which platforms pose the biggest threats? Well, it’s not just one immediate threat, but more of a series of threats from different sources. For one thing, sales of PCs are on a steady decline due to the availability of low cost tablet computers like Apple’s iPad. These devices abandoned conventional wisdom and did away with hard disk drives completely. Instead, they opt for flash and solid state drives (SSDs).These flash and solid state drives have also found their way into lightweight notebook computers, further putting a dent in HDD production. However, there is another threat and it’s one that is relatively new.

We’ve all heard of the benefits of cloud computing. Advertisements promote the security, safety and ease-of-use of being in the “cloud”. Savings for enterprises are substantial as cloud computing allows enterprises to avoid costly onsite storage, and forego the high costs associated with maintaining and updating large server networks and costly IT departments. In addition, there are further benefits of increased flexibility as employees can access information from any accessible terminal. Despite all of this, hard disk drives may have found a solution to the threats posed by cloud computing and declining PC sales.

The Archos G9 101 is a tablet computer that has incorporated an extremely thin hard drive into its design. It uses the 7mm Seagate Momentus Thin, the first 2.5 inch hard drive of its kind. This advancement provides users with up to 320 GB of storage capacity and allows tablet users to do away with the issue of limited storage. Tablet manufacturers found solid state drives to be somewhat costly. As such, some decided to trade off decreased storage capacity for a lower price tag. However, this new hard disk drive may just make storage capacity a concern of the past.

Granted, the jury is still out as to whether the hard disk drive industry’s best days are behind it. After all, businesses still need PCs and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. However, it’s fair to assume that the HDD industry has done a fairly good job addressing its external threats. In this case, the industry has identified its own limitations and has directly confronted those disruptive and competing technologies that could’ve spelled its downfall.

Stay tuned for more…

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Omar Kattan is Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital, the MENA region's first specialist content marketing agency headquartered in Dubai. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.

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