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Solid State Drives Will Hardly Get Solid Market Share

Solid state drives have been around for years, but only recently consumer-oriented vendors started to push flash-based storage aimed at home users. The price of flash memory is dropping and it is natural that SSDs now make more sense than several years ago. But we still are pretty much skeptic about solid state drives on consumer market.

There are two factors that keep consumers away from solid state drives: price and reliability. While the SSDs do not feature any mechanic parts, every single flash bit has limited number of write cycles, therefore, SSDs will inevitably malfunction at some point. This, in addition to the price, which is ten times higher than that of hard disk drives with similar storage space, keeps a lot of people away from SSDs.

Based on what we do know about SSDs due in 2009, there will be no revolution in pricing or reliability of solid state drives next year. Of course, we will see 512GB (500GB) solid state drives from companies like Toshiba; moreover, perhaps, some high-end SSDs will even hit the magic 1TB milestone. Nevertheless, the large-capacity SSDs will remain very expensive, whereas low-capacity flash-based drives will hardly be in high-demand among mainstream consumers (although some enthusiasts are likely to adopt them).

Performance enthusiasts this year got Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive, which offers incredible performance with all the benefits of hard disk drive technology: affordable cost, reliability, capacity and familiarity. If entry-level SSDs start to challenge those high-performance HDDs, manufacturers will introduce even speedier models with faster spindle speed and larger caches.

The cost-per-gigabyte of hard drives is dramatically lower than the cost of a gigabyte on an SSD. Obviously, the cost-per-gigabyte is dropping rapidly for both HDDs and SSDs, thanks to newer process technologies, but not so rapidly to make the latter considerably more competitive next year. As a result, we expect SSDs to remain a niche market, at least in 2009.

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