5mm and 7mm HDDs Will Reach 133 Million Units by 2017 – IHS

Up from 5 million last year

This is a Press Release edited by on 2013.07.22
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A new generation of thin HDDs only 5 and 7mm thick are expected to enjoy fast sales growth in coming years, as mobile computers including ultra-thin PCs and PC tablets drive up demand by a factor of more than 25 from 2012 to 2017.

The combined shipments of 5 and 7mm HDDs used in mobile PCs will reach 133 million units by 2017, up from just 5 million last year, according to a Storage Space Brief from information and analytics provider IHS iSuppli.

Lighter in weight and thinner in breadth, the 5 and 7mm models will form a new class of ultra-slim HDDs that are forecast to eventually displace the much thicker 9.5mm drives that currently rule the industry. Shipments of the thicker 9.5mm HDDs for mobile PCs will deteriorate to 79 million in 2017, down from 245 million units in 2012, as shown in the attached figure.

            WW HDD Shipments
       for Mobile PCs by Thickness
                (millions of units)

 Year 9.5mm or
 Growth 5+7mm  Growth
 2012     245     NA      5     NA
 2013     150   -49%     74   138%
 2014     122   -19%     99    34%
 2015     110   -10%    110    11%
 2016      99   -10%    115     5%
 2017      79   -20%    133    16%

  (Source: IHS Inc., July 2013)

Both the 5 and 7mm HDD products will see increasing adoption starting this year, along with another form of storage device known as the hybrid HDD, in which a NAND flash component or so-called cache SSD is joined with the HDD within a single storage enclosure.

"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 hybrid HDDs could even start finding acceptance in ultrathin PCs and tablet PCs-two products that now mostly use SSDs as their storage element. HDDs 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, for instance, the total SSD shipments will climb nearly 90% to 64.6 million units, while HDD shipments will decline 5% to 545.8 million units. However, the new and thinner HDDs eventually could stem losses of the HDD space, especially if their costs can fall to 10-15% of a tablet or to 10-20% of an ultra-thin PC, IHS believes.

These cost thresholds are important because they could be instrumental in persuading tablet and ultrathin PC brands to consider 5 and 7mm. HDDs as possible alternatives to the SSDs now used as the predominant storage element. SSDs are relatively expensive at present compared to other storage types and cut into the overall margins of computer and tablet makers, so the use of more economical storage alternatives that boost the bottom line of makers would make a persuasive argument to undertake a switch.

HDD manufacturers jump into the fray

All three manufacturers of HDD drives-U.S.-based Western Digital Corp. and Seagate Technology, as well as Toshiba of Japan will have their own product offerings for the new and thinner HDDs.

Western Digital
fired the opening salvo in April, announcing it had started shipping the 5mm WD Blue ultraslim HDD and the Black SSHD, a solid-state hybrid drive with a HDD component alongside the cache SSD-to select industry distributors as well as OEM customers.

Western Digital claims that the 500GB capacities of the two models will reduce weight by as much as 30% compared to a 9.5mm HDD, with a circuit board utilizing cellphone miniaturization technology able to maximize the mechanical sway space in the HDD to ensure shock resistance. Western Digital then announced in June shipments of the world's currently thinnest 1TB drive, at 7mm WD Blue, with both Acer and Asus likely to use the product in their upcoming ultrathin PCs.

For its part, Western Digital archrival Seagate announced also in June it had shipped 5mm HDDs to Asus, Dell and Lenovo for their ultra-thin PCs for the second half of 2013. Seagate says its 500GB HDD occupies 25% less space than the company's 7mm HDD.

Reacting to the developments from Western Digital and Seagate, Toshiba said it would ship a 7mm solid-state hybrid drive in 320GB and 500GB configurations, likewise by the end of June. Previously, Toshiba only had a 9.5mm SSHD of up to 750GB.

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