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Seagate chief still down on ultrabooks, sees media shortage

updated 01:45 pm EDT, Sat April 14, 2012

Seagate CEO sees flash too young

Seagate chief Steve Luczo in an interview published late in the week remained skeptical of flash memory. In the sit-down with Forbes, he saw systems like the MacBook Air and Windows ultrabooks as still far too cost-prohibitive to make sense for most users. Befitting his company's heavy dependence on rotating storage, he saw many of those systems either needing a hybrid flash and rotating hard drive or else leaning heavily on cloud storage with a conventional disk.

"If a bunch of rich people in Atherton want to buy a PC for $1,000 that has 128 gigs, then, sure," he said. "I just don't think that is much of the world... if they have that machine, they have some other machine somewhere that's got 5 terabytes on it, because I can't do much with 128 gigs."

The same was true for tablets like the iPad, as the storage had simply been moved off to the content hosts rather than the tablet itself. Luczo added that, even if there were a wholesale switch to flash, the current manufacturing capacity would only address about a quarter of the world's needs. He reckoned that the industry would need four factories equivalent to the world's largest memory plant, Samsung's Fab 16, to catch up.

Regardless of drive type, he warned there could be a crunch in storage of all kinds. There wasn't enough investment in storage technology, Luczo said. Even with technologies like heat-assisted magnetic recording, which brought drive capacity growth back up to where it had been years ago, there was likely to be a shortage within the next two years. "There's just not enough capital being put to work," the executive said.

The comments on flash are primarily relevant in the short term, as flash drives rarely exceed 512GB and can still costs hundreds of dollars for a 256GB drive. Solid-state technology typically tends to double in capacity with each successive generation, making reasonable storage more affordable. Improvements in manufacturing have likewise made it more feasible to make more flash memory chips in a given yield and improve capacity without building more factories.

by MacNN Staff



  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    if this guy

    is trying to campaign to be the next Acer CEO... I think he's the front-runner.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    news flash

    buggy whip maker harshes on automobiles.

  1. macnnoel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The problem is

    the ultrabook only addresses the hardware. What is the real compelling reason or advantage in buying an ultrabook over a regular laptop without an optical drive?

  1. sibeale1

    Joined: Dec 1969


    When I can...

    ...get a 1TB flash drive for my MacBook Pro for less than $150, I'll be on board. Until then, I'll stay with buggy whips.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I don't get it

    I really don't get this guy, and for that matter the established rotating hard drive companies in general.

    They make storage. Up until very recently, that meant rotating hard drives.

    Flash storage is now becoming increasingly more prevalent, and increasingly more affordable. Normally you'd expect a company like Seagate to see that and diversify. If SSDs supersede HDs for the mass market, then you're well positioned and have a good name to bank on. If not, you can still continue to sell to both markets.

    Instead, Seagate has all but conceded the market to smaller players. Even WD is barely sticking a toe in the water. Only Toshiba and Samsung seem to have any concept of how to play the game.

    What is the benefit of ignoring a rapidly expanding market?

    And while I can safely say that it'll be a long time before SSDs are coughing out storage at $50/TB, I can also say that the average everyday user whose computer I work on has under 100GB of stuff on their hard drive, OS included. Sure, I sling around terabytes of video data regularly, but my mom doesn't--and there are a lot more moms out there than hardcore media geeks.

    That's why ultra books work--because a majority of regular users just don't need that much storage.

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