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JP Morgan analyst firm today downgraded several companies involved in the storage industry, dubbed WD, Maxtor and Read-Rite.

JP Morgan cut Western Digital and Maxtor to Neutral from Overweight, citing seasonally weakening PC demand, a fragile pricing environment, and high valuation as well as based on their belief that Maxtor continues to suffer lingering effects from its transition to 80GB/platter technology. Firm also downgraded Read-Rite company, an independent supplier of magnetic recording heads for the hard disk drive to Underweight from Neutral.

Given that 80GB HDDs are the most popular and useful for consumers nowadays, it becomes an important task for hard disk drive makers to perform a rapid transition to 80GB platters. Since only Seagate and Maxtor currently supply HDDs utilising such platters, they seem to be in a more favourable position compared to their rivals. Unfortunately for the companies, not everything goes as smoothly as it could be. We have heard reports about some faulty Barracuda 7200.7 drives coming from Seagate Technology, though, it was not a massive event and we believe there are no such products on the market now; besides, we reported about Maxtor presumably utilising 60 or 70GB platters rather than 80GB platters on certain HDDs, as a result, we can easily believe that the companies might really have problems with transition to higher-density platters.

Western Digital and HGST officially do not supply any products based on 80GB platters, so, in short-term they also may run into difficulties with transition. It is also possible that due to the fact both companies had enough time for research and development of 80GB platters, there will be considerably fewer obstacles with rapid ramp of appropriate products and bringing them into the market.

Note that HGST company (former IBM Storage) has been quite aggressive during the last few months in terms of market share expansions. Since this player proved its high potential on the market, its rivals’ stocks may eventually weaken (see this news-story for more details).

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