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Industry: iPods to hold on to hard drives

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.

by MacNN Staff





  1. njfuzzy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I think this is wrong...

    There are a few problems with this argument...

    1.) Hard drives break. Whether through normal wear and tear, or through impact from activities like jogging, hard drives wear out. If we could replace them for portable devices, we clearly should, and at a premium.

    2.) Hard drives suck batteries. Flash memory is simply far more energy efficient. For portable devices, this is important-- especially ones with big battery-draining displays for watching video.

    3.) Flash memory is growing. Economically, we're close to a break point. Even desktop PCs are shipping with solid-state drives now. Minature hard drives, on the other hand, cost more than full size ones. Pretty soon, flash will be worth the price premium over iPod-sized hard drives.

    4.) Who the h*** needs to carry their entire movie library with them? The great lesson here was the Shuffle plus iTunes-- I don't need to carry all of my music. All of my favourite songs, plus a random selection of other ones, is plenty to get me through the day until my next synch. I'm seeing the same thing with my iPhone-- a few shows, a couple of movies, is more than I will ever need between synching.

    I predict there will be one more revision of the iPod Classic, with the iPod nano and iPod touch becoming the standard and high-end devices. (This is a change of positioning from the nano being the budget and mini device, but the classic being the midrange to high-end as it has been.)

  1. eldarkus

    Joined: Dec 1969



    All hail Captain Obvious!!

  1. moteltan

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I disagree

    video on my 8gb iPhone is laughable. The screen is amazing--don't get me wrong--but I have to be overly vigilant in my syncing if I want to have what I want to watch on it when I want to watch it. And that's a pain, because downmixing to the iphone ain't like flipping a switch anyhow. The argument (#4) that I don't need a large catalog??? Apply that argument to audio 4 years ago, why don't ya? There's holes all over this article. Video thru youtube is desperatly slow and of the poorest quality. Safari on touch and iPhone doesn't do most flash-based movie players, so forget streaming. That the only two form-factors with this fantastic screen both lack enough storage to effectively enjoy video is beyond me. There BETTER be something that makes sense in the pipeline that justifies this situation, because as it stands today, it doesn't pass the logic test. --moteltan (MBPro, Apple TV, 3 iPods, iPhone, and a bunch of stock)

  1. zac4mac

    Joined: Dec 1969



    wake me up when I can afford a 160GB flash iPod.


  1. cmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    different strokes

    Your usage pattern may fit perfectly well with the iPhone's storage capacity. Mine don't. The iPhone changed how much I watched videos - music videos, podcasts, tv shows. I find I can only have about 4 gb of music and then the rest goes to video files. I can surely use 30+ gigs on my iPhone, but your points 1 and 2 trump that need.

  1. tomodachi

    Joined: Dec 1969



    At least some iPods will continue to feature hard drives for a while to come, [b] according to commentators. [/b]

    And that becomes news. Ah, the wonders of MacNN.

  1. spartian

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Hard Disks Rule

    I guess if having a chunk of silicon store your media is more important than actually playing your media, then maybe flash memory is the way to go.

    Let's look at what Apple Advertises: Nano 8GB Battery: 24hrs music / 5 hrs video Classic 160GB Battery: 40hrs music / 7 hrs video iPhone 8GB Battery: 24hrs music / 7 hrs video Touch 16GB Battery: 22hrs music / 5 hrs video

    It would seem that cost, the quality of the playback, size, and the amount of media stored would be the important features.

  1. ender

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: I think this is wrong

    Your points are valid...but equality pointless. You make good points about why flash is good and will likely see expanding usage as prices come down. But that's not what the article was about. The article was about how hard drive based usage will not entirely go away anytime soon, based on storage needs. Your #4 is the only point that attempts to address that. Perhaps you like to sync your iPod every day and mess around with changing the music on it on a regular basis. Most of us don't. There is no flash based iPod that will hold all my music, even at 128 bit-rate. The whole point of the iPod is to let me listen to my music whenever/wherever I want to. Not to run home to sync when I want to listen to a song I don't have loaded.

    And then there's photos and video....

  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Capacity Capacity ...

    Capacity is important for some of us. At this point in time, flash iPods don't cut it. I could see getting one just for podcasts. I don't want to carrying video around with me. I'm blind enough as it is withut staring at a tiny screen.

    There's NO WAY I'd ever be able, or WANT to fit my entire music library on my iPod. I really don't need all 12 of my recordings of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (yes, 12), or all 4 Wagner Ring Cycles (Karajan, Solti, Boulez and Levine), or, or, or, or... I've just got too many recordings of too many things to bother.

    I've ripped a few favorite recordings using Apple Lossless and am fairly content to leave it at that. I'm eyeing the 160GB iPod Classic, because my 5.5G 80GB iPod is almost full and I'd like to add more stuff. Maybe I'll get another iPod just for operas...

  1. ChasmoeBrown

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Who the h*** NEEDS an iPod period?! To assume no one else does just because you don't, in any respect, shows a very overblown sense of self and is just asinine!

    If the Shuffle is enough for you, that's great, I'm happy for you, truly. But I DO want my entire music library with me and that includes music/concert DVDs. (I LOVE Handbrake!! - for breaking up those DVDs by song.) So until the Touch gets that 240GB HD that's next up, it's the Classic for me.

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