If the popularity of various slate-type personal computers grows rapidly, then sales growth of hard disk drives (HDDs) may slowdown as tablets do not use hard drives, but rely on flash memory, an analyst said. But the question is whether tablets will substitute notebooks or netbooks among consumers as presently those devices are considered as supplementary for PCs.
Total unit sales of hard drives this year are projected to be 650 million of units, up 17% from the previous year, primarily thanks to the overall improve of the economic situation around the globe. However, the strength of the tablets, which do not use HDDs, could cause a 2% to 3% loss to global hard drive shipments in 2010, according to research firm IDC. While virtually all tablets have or will have USB ports, it will be possible for hard drive makers to sell external HDDs for tablets. Nonetheless, despite of this market opportunity financial analysts are already making predictions about the issues that slates are likely to cause hard disk drive manufacturers.
"We don't think all of it is priced in. People haven't really realized the extent or the depth of the situation. You have got to believe that some people who would have bought a laptop before are now going to move to the tablet,” said Kaushik Roy, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, in an interview with Reuters news-agency.
Although tablets do affect sales of netbooks – cheap computers based on entry-level Atom processors and inexpensive hard disk drives – they hardly affect sales of more mainstream notebooks or desktops. Moreover, every tablet is presently used as an additional, not a primary personal systems, which means that all the tablet owners also have a desktop or a notebook.
According to analysts, in case slate PCs will get so popular that their adoption will threaten sales of consumer-oriented laptops or netbooks, then the company that will suffer most will be Hitachi Global Storage Technologies since it has the biggest portion of mobile HDDs in its product portfolio. It will be followed by Western Digital, Seagate Technology, Toshiba Corp. and Samsung Electronics in that order. But even if tablets replace netbooks and affect sales of notebooks, end-users will have to either buy external HDDs, use network storage or cloud storage, all of which are powered by hard drives. Therefore, hard disk drive manufactures currently have no worries.
“The reason why is because these devices have very limited on-board storage and they will ultimately have to access external storage in one or more forms, whether it is local attached, networked or cloud storage, all of which benefit Seagate," a spokesman for Seagate is reported to have said.