Bill Watkins, the ex-Seagate CEO who served 12 years with the hard drive maker, jumps out of the unemployment line to serve as CEO of LED lighting company Bridgelux. Not by accident, Watkins has been researching green technologies ever since cutting ties with Seagate and became fascinated with the LED sector.
"There's a $100 billion opportunity, a whole new disruptive technology with LEDs, and an installed base that owns the market but doesn't have good solutions. You don't see that very often, but that's how new technology can make an impact," Watkins said this week.
Watkins is thinking on a global scale with his new position and said he plans to help his company grow by developing its manufacturing and expanding internationally, CNet reports.
"The whole world is basically going to embrace this technology," Watkins added.
When Seagate told us it would be shipping the first 6Gb/s SATA hard drive, we were a little surprised. And when we found out it wasn’t going to be a solid state drive, but a 7,200rpm Barracuda drive, our skepticism increased. Sure, we’d been waiting a long time for Seagate’s 2TB 7,200rpm drive, and it’s nice to see the SATA 6Gb/s spec ship on a real-world product, but putting a 6Gb/s controller on a mechanical hard drive is like putting a Formula 1 airfoil on a golf cart. The vehicle just ain’t ever going to go fast enough to warrant the accessory.
In order to test the Barracuda XT on a level playing field, we built a new rig: a 2.66GHz Core i5-750 and 4GB of DDR3 RAM on an Asus P7P55D-Premium motherboard, which has an onboard Marvell SATA 6Gb/s controller as well as an Intel 3Gb/s SATA controller. The rig runs Windows XP SP3 and 64-bit Vista Home Premium from a 300GB WD Raptor. We tested both the Barracuda and its closest competitor, the 2TB WD Caviar Black, on both the Marvell and Intel controllers.
USB 2.0 may have reigned supreme for most of 2009, but now it's USB 3.0's time to shine in the limelight. Wasting no time in the new year, Seagate used CES to unveil its BlackArmor PS110 USB 3.0 portable external hard drive "performance kit" designed for laptops.
"As people continue to amass vast libraries of high-definition photos, movies, and music, the storage needs of US households are forecast to grow more than ten times between 2009 and 2013, and the average digital media storage requirements will exceed a terabyte by 2013," said Kurt Schreff, vice president and principle analyst of Parks Associates.
Seagate's latest BlackArmor extrnal HDD kit packs a 500GB 7200RPM 2.5-inch portable hard drive, power cable, and PC Express card. And because it's built around the new SuperSpeed USB 3.0 spec, Seagate says you can expect sustained transfer rates in the neighborhood of 100MB/s, which is three times faster than current USB 2.0 devices, the company claims. That boils down to transferring a 25GB HD movie in about 4 minutes, compared to 14 minutes using a USB 2.0 drive.
Seagate says the new drive is available now with an MSRP set at $180.
They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so where does that leave ex-employees? In some cases, right in the same category. Just ask Seagate, who stands accused by a former employee of patent infringement and other underhanded deeds.
Paul A. Galloway, a former Seagate servo engineer until July of this year, says the hard drive maker has been infringing on HDD technology patents held by Convolve. What's more, Galloway alleges Seagate went so far as to destroy evidence to cover its tracks.
"According to Mr. Galloway, Seagate widely disseminated Convolve's technology throughout Seagate's servo engineering community, but engineers like Mr.Galloway, who were exposed to Convolve's technology, were not told that it was protected under an NDA," the court filing reads. "Certain technologies Seagate now claims to have independently developed were, in fact, influenced by Convolve's technology.
Galloway's claims are the latest in a decade-long suit between Convolve and Seagate, in which the former, along with MIT, is seeking $800 million for the use of noise-reduction technology.
We were expecting Seagate to lift the wraps on its 7mm thick thin hard drive next month during CES, but we guess the HDD maker just couldn't wait. Rather than wait a month, Seagate today announced the Momentus Thin drive, which the company claims is the "world's thinnest 2.5-inch hard drive" designed for ultraportables and entry-level laptops.
"The Momentus Thin drive promises to help computer makers differentiate on mobile-computing form factor and better compete in the fast-growing markets for thin laptop PCs and netbooks," said Dave Mosley, executive vice president of Sales, Marketing, and Product Line Management at Seagate. "Seagate is committed to helping its OEM and system integrator partners meet market demand for thinner laptop PCs and plans to expand storage capabilities for thin laptops as demand for these slimmer models continues to grow."
At just 7mm in height, the thin drive is 25 percent slimmer than traditional 9.5mm, 2.5-inch laptop hard drives. Seagate's Momentus Thin is so far available in 160GB and 250GB capacities, both of which come with an 8MB cache buffer, SATA 3Gb/s interface, and a 5400 RPM spindle speed.
Seagate says it will begin shipping its new drives to OEM and integrator partners in January 2010.
Somebody's been eating their Wheaties lately, and that somebody is Seagate. How else do you explain the flurry of activity? The company recently released the world's first SATA 6Gb/s hard drive, and pretty soon, Seagate will finally make the jump into the SSD market. On top of it all, the company is planning to unveil a new 2.5-inch 640GB Momentus HDD during CES next month.
The new drive will sport dual-320GB platters with an areal density of 507Gb (that's gigabit) per square inch, which is a 29 percent increase over previous 500GB hard drives with 394Gb per square inch. It will also come with an 8MB cache buffer and spin at 5400 RPM.
But wait, that's not all. In addition to the 640GB drive, Seagate also plans to introduce the world's first 7mm 2.5-inch drive, also during CES. That's 25 percent thinner than the 9.5mm standard. So why so small? It's safe to say that netbooks are more than just a passing fad at this point, and ultra-thins are fast becoming the next must-have portable PC.
"The new slimline product allows our OEM customers to continue to reduce the thickness and weight of their notebook platforms," stated Robert Whitmore, Seagate's Chief Technology Office.
Seagate’s new line is called Pulsar. According to Seagate, Pulsar is intended for blade and general server applications--which means they will be targeted to the enterprise market segment.
The drives will be built with chips of Seagate’s own design, making use of single-level cell (SLC) technology (for reliability), fit into a 2.5-inch form factor, use a SATA 3Gb/s interface, and will be available in capacities up to 200GB.
Mechanical hard drives still hold the advantage when it comes to capacity and price-per-gigabyte, but there's no touching the speed of a quality solid state drive (SSD). OEMs know this, and while mobile PC users might not be willing to pay the premium placed on SSDs, they may be willing to step up to a 7200 RPM hard drive. In fact, Seagate reckons that by 2011, half of all mobile hard drives will spin at 7200 RPM in order to better compete with their pricier brethren.
By 2012, Seagate predicts most mobile PCs -- even netbooks -- will have transitioned to 7200 RPM hard drives. That's good news for power users more concerned with performance than they are with maximing battery life. The theoretical performance difference between a 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM hard drive sits at about 33 percent, but it can be even more, depending on cache, areal density, and other factors.
The move to faster mobile hard drives at lower price points might not bode so well for SSD adoption, however. SSDs will still trump HDDs in everything from boot times to how long it takes to load an application, but it won't be as pronounced as when compared to a 5400 RPM HDD.
"Do you remember 1979," asks the letter we got from Seagate Technology today, which goes on to remind us that that was the year of the Iran hostage crisis, the Sony Walkman, and the world's first snowboard. Oh, and Shugart Technologies, later to be known as Seagate, was founded.
To commemorate the occasion, Seagate sent along a neat t-shirt, with a 70s-style graphic of their very first hard drive: the 5MB ST506—which came out in 1980, but close enough. Associate Online Editor Alex Castle just happened to have a vintage ST506 hanging out on his desk, so we snapped a shot of the shirt and the drive together.
On left, Associate Editor Nathan Edwards models the Seagate t-shirt, while Associate Online Editor holds up his vintage Seagate ST506.
Neither of us, unfortunately, remember 1979. But close enough. Congratulations, Seagate!
Update: You can enter to win one of these sweet shirts (or a 320GB FreeAgent Go portable hard drive) on Seagate's site.
Seagate shipped 46.3 million disk drives during the quarter, up 14 percent over the previous quarter, but down some four percent from the previous year. Still, Seagate CEO Steve Luczo is a happy camper: "The company has returned to its operating model well ahead of our expectations of six months ago and now expects to sustain gross margin of 22-26 per cent.”
Seagate is confident enough in it’s financial position to start a more aggressive push on its line of Solid State Drives (SSDs). These SATA-interfaced SSDs will be targeted initially to businesses, particular in the broad volume server market. Seagate is not looking at SSDs as replacements for hard drives. In fact, Seagate will be promoting it’s new single-platter 2.5-inch drive, which sits a mere 7 mm high, for upcoming ultra-thin notebooks, such as the Dell Adamo XPS.