updated 09:35 am EDT, Fri October 12, 2007
iPods to hold on to HDDs
At least some iPods will continue to feature hard drives for a while to come, according to commentators. Research firm iSuppli yesterday described Apple's iPod classic as a "stopgap" player, built only because it is currently more economical to use hard drives for mass storage than flash, which is found on every other iPod. This view is opposed by Dave Reinsel, program director for Storage Research at the analysis firm IDC. Reisnel notes that demand for HD video and other memory-intensive content is bound to increase, and that there is simply no alternative to hard drives for users who want to carry a lot of media with them.
"If I'm going to start watching video on my iPod, yes, I'm going to want local storage," says Reinsel. "Make that hi-def and full-feature movies, then, yeah, I'm definitely going to need a hard disc drive."
Hard drive manufacturer Seagate contends that while players with 16GB or less are likely to be flash-based from now on, the price of flash memory will have to drop dramatically before it becomes reasonable to replace players like the Classic, which holds 80 or 160GB depending on the model. "If you look at laptops with flash drives," says Seagate representative Michael Hall, "the cost is still really prohibitive. Today, a 32GB (flash) drive in a notebook will cost you about $300 a pop, whereas you can get a 160GB HDD for $150."
iSuppli notes that one main reason for Apple's focus on flash has been an increase in its value relative to capacity. The 80GB HDD for the Classic costs Apple $78, the same price as a 30GB drive from two years ago; by contrast, the 8GB of flash in the new iPod nano costs $48, half what it did only a year ago.
Also important is that the iPod touch in particular has less need for local storage, since it can stream audio and video via Wi-Fi, through services such as the built-in YouTube browser.