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Thin hybrid hard drive (HHD) intended to serve as storage media for ultra-thin computers could help the HDD industry in its continuous battle against tablet devices, according to an IHS iSuppli. Two necessary features of HHDs are minimal thickness as well as performance comparable to solid-state drives so that to bring look and user experience of ultra-slim notebooks closer to that of media tablets.

Hybrid HDDs are basically hard disk drives containing a built-in layer of NAND flash memory that speeds up loading of frequently programs or speed up boot-time, wake up time and so on. Thinner hybrid HDD - those that measure 5mm in thickness are less expensive than pure solid state drives, and can serve in a larger market than just ultrabooks and SSD-based notebook PCs. For instance, thin hybrid HDDs can also be used in market segments such as the external hard disk drive sector, all-in-one desktop PCs, gaming platforms, and even tablet PC designs.

Shipments of hybrid HDDs are expected to surge by a factor of six in the course of four years, rising from 1.2 million units this year to 25.0 million units by 2016. In comparison, the rival hard disk drive with cache SSD will see shipments rise at a slightly less expansive rate, climbing from 9.8 million units in 2012 to 64.2 million in 2016.

Depending on the resulting performance of the hybrid HDD products now in development as well as their eventual price point, the 5mm hybrid HDD could potentially replace many conventional hard disk drives, including the 9.5mm and 7mm HDDs currently used in notebook PCs. All told, the potential market for 5mm hybrid HDDs could amount to more than 100 million units by 2016, which includes the market for notebooks that do not currently use pure SSDs, hard disk drives with cache SSD, or any form of hybrid HDD.

As such, the 5mm hybrid HDD could considerably revive the ailing notebook market and help it become competitive again. Both the storage industry and the PC market would benefit in the process.

Hybrid HDDs have been on the market since Seagate Technology and Samsung Electronics introduced their versions in 2006 and 2007, respectively. However, their benefits to users were not particularly evident, which is why they have so far failed to gain any significant popularity. The new generations of hybrid hard drives, currently in development at Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital are projected to finally provide substantial benefits in terms of performance compared to regular hard drives.

With new ultrabooks next year expected to adopt the 5mm hybrid HDD as soon as the new storage media become available, more notebook PC manufacturers will initiate their own adoption of thin hybrid HDDs, IHS iSuppli believes.

Consumers will also reap significant improvements on their end, including a more efficient PC form factor, lower power consumption and greater cost-performance value.

Tags: Seagate, Toshiba, Western Digital, WD, HDD

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