There are some immutable laws of the natural world. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Anything that can go wrong, will, and at the worst possible time. And finally, any tech discussion involving Gordon and Nathan will inevitably turn into a debate about Star Wars. Andy and Alan join Gordon and Nathan in Episode 169 of the No BS, Some Star Wars Podcast to discuss a new Gigabyte X58 board, AMD's dual-GPU Radeon HD 6990 "Antilles," and (perhaps inevitably) Wedge Antilles' raison d'etre as a starfighter pilot. Also, Western Digital buys Hitachi GST, the future of storage, and incredible feedback from Alan's stupid Mac microphone. With a bonus appearance by former boot and Maximum PC editor and current Maximum Tech editor Mike Brown!
Do you have a tech question? A comment? A tale of technological triumph? Just need to get something off your chest? A secret to share? Email us at email@example.com or call our 24-hour No BS Podcast hotline at 877.404.1337 x1337--operators are not standing by.
Western Digital and Seagate have been jockeying for the top spot in the global hard drive market, and the two swapped places in 2010. According to data provided by The Information Network, Seagate's market share dipped from 31.2 percent in 2009 to 29.9 percent in 2010, while Western Digital went from 29.6 percent to 31.4 percent in the same time frame. Hit the jump to find out how WD managed to leapfrog Seagate, and how the rest of the HDD market is shaping up.
There's no question solid state drives (SSDs) are fast, especially now that the latest controllers have all but eliminated the stuttering problem that plagued first generation drives. The problem is SSDs are still expensive, forcing system builders to choose between performance (SSD) or storage space (HDD). Western Digital recently acknowledged as much during a recent conference call with financial analysts, XbitLabs reports.
"We have taken a look at and in fact shipped product in the SSD, in the client environment, and we do not find a compelling value proposition there either for manufacturer or for customer because the economics do not work," said John Coyne, chief executive officer of Western Digital. "The cost of the storage/performance is too high."
There was some hope that SSD pricing would have dropped by now, and while it has somewhat, the more popular trend seems to be to release lower capacity SSDs that cost less and market them as boot drives. The price-per-gigabyte ratio is still high, prompting Western Digital to consider hybrid drives as an alternative.
"We also continue to evaluate the opportunity to combine rotating magnetic storage with flash into hybrid solutions... We look at client environment and look at what might be an attractive offering that combine the best of both worlds in terms of performance of solid state with the capacity of rotating media," Coyne explained.
This, Coyne says, would "provide an accessible price point," but would also need operating systems to play ball with native support. According to Coyne, hybrid solutions are "not really supported well today," but could be in the next couple of years.
Western Digital on Tuesday reported revenue of $2.475 billion for its second fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2010. That's down slightly from one year ago, in which WD posted $2.619 billion, but the hard drive maker isn't complaining.
"We are pleased to deliver better-than-expected revenues, profitability, and gross margin in the December quarter, reflecting solid execution and an improvement in hard drive industry conditions compared with the prior two quarters," said John Coyne, president and chief executive officer. "The opportunity for profitable growth in our industry remains tremendous and we are committed to improving our financial performance over the longer term. We plan to do so with a continued emphasis on our industry-leading low-cost structure, high quality, highly reliable and highly available products, and a sharp focus on matching production with true customer demand."
Western Digital shipped 52.2 million hard drives during its second fiscal quarter, which contributed $225 million. During the same quarter in 2009, WD shipped 49.5 million hard drives.
Speed and capacity isn't a combination that often goes hand-in-hand with notebooks, but it can be with Western Digital's Scorpio 750GB hard drive. This 2.5-inch SATA drive spins at 7200RPM and is one of the fastest notebook drives around, and it's shipping now, WD says.
"Our most demanding customers have come to expect 'no compromises' from all of our Black series products," explains Matt Rutledge, vice president of product marketing for WD. "The new WD Scorpio Black drive does not disappoint, providing users of portable devices the necessary speed, significant storage and efficient power management needed to enjoy their favorite HD content, high resolution images, powerful office applications or gaming at home, in the office or on the road."
The drive also comes equipped with 16MB of cache and uses Western Digital's Advanced Format technology. It carries an MSRP of $150.
Several days after details about the WD TV Live Hub surfaced on the internet, Western Digital today launched the set-top-box that boasts a few additional features over previous WD TV devices. It is a network media streamer, DLNA-compliant media extender and 1TB hard drive all rolled into a single $200 package.
You can not only use this networked media player to view media content, whether it be locally stored or Internet based, on your TV, but also stream local content to any DLNA/UPnP compatible device, including game consoles, Blu-ray Disc players and other WD TV Live media players.
Despite its versatility, the WD TV Live Hub is missing something very basic -- Wi-Fi. Perhaps Western Digital was hoping that the Hub’s other features would offset its lack of Wi-Fi.
We knew it was only a matter of time before somebody conquered the old 2.19TB partition limit that’s hamstrung drive capacity for the past few years. Since it’s difficult to create a bootable Windows partition on a drive larger than 2.19TB, most vendors have been happily sticking to 2TB drives while waiting for the rest of the computer ecosystem to catch up. But that’s all changing; hard drive vendors are now going full steam ahead on 3TB drives. Seagate and Western Digital already have 3TB external drives, but Western Digital’s four-platter 3TB Caviar Green is the first bootable 3TB drive.
For select values of "bootable."
The 3TB Caviar Green squeezes 750GB onto each platter and boasts 64MB of cache. Its controller is 3Gb/s SATA, not 6Gb/s, but “green” drives aren’t exactly bumping up against the limits of the last-gen SATA spec. But can you use it as a boot drive? And why shouldn’t you be able to, anyway?
We've been stuck at 2TB for what seems like forever, and there's good reason for that. Drive partitions larger than 2.19TB create a unique problem for PCs, and trying to boot from them requires a mish mash of technologies, including the use of a GPT partition, a modern 64-bit OS (Vista or Windows 7), and a motherboard equipped with an EFI BIOS.
Despite all this, Western Digital has gone ahead and begun shipping a 3TB hard drive in Caviar Green trim, which qualifies as the largest capacity internal SATA drive around. The drive utilizes four 750GB platters as well as Western Digital's Advanced Format technology, which you can read more about here.
To sidestep the issue of integrating large capacity hard drives into your system, Western Digital also bundles an Advanced Host Controller (AHCI)-compliant Host Bus Adapter with its 3TB (and 2.5TB) hard drives, which makes it easier for OSes to locate and use a known driver with correct support for large capacity drives. In other words, you can actually boot from the thing without any crazy voodoo.
The 3TB drive is available now for for $240, while the 2.5TB drive sells for $190.
For the first time ever, hard disk drive (HDD) shipments from Western Digital have zipped past Seagate, according to a report by market research firm iSuppli.
Western Digital managed to ship 51.1 million HDDs for the first quarter of 2010, a 3.2 percent increase from the 49.5 million units it shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009. That was enough to finally edge out Seagate, which shipped 50.3 million, up 0.8 percent from 49.9 million over the prior quarter.
While Western Digital wins the quarterly shipment war, Seagate still has the edge in revenue. According to iSuppli, Seagate's revenue numbers sit at $3.1 billion, a good chunk higher than Western Digital's $2.64 billion.
Like two heavyweights dancing around the ring, Western Digital and Seagate have been fighting each other for the No. 1 spot in global hard drive shipments, a position Seagate has held onto (barely) until the first quarter of 2010. That's when WD finally moved ahead of Seagate with 51.1 million shipments compared to 50.3 million for Seagate, according to The Information Network.
"The mobile HDD market, which is WD's strength, will outperform the desktop market, which is Seagate's strength, in 2010," said Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network. "That's one of the factors in our forecast that WD will move ahead of Seagate in 2010."
Throughout 2009, WD managed to ship a total of 165.2 million hard drives, up from 146 million units in 2008. That was enough to narrow the gap with Seagate to only about 10 million units. In the mobile sector -- where The Information Network claims WD has an advantage -- WD led the way with a 28 percent share of the market, though it was a tight race with Toshiba/Fujitsu, HGST, and Seagate close behind with a 2 percent share difference among the three companies, The Information Network said.