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Wanted: 40 trillion gigabytes of open storage, stat!

Jon L. Jacobi | Jan. 30, 2013
Gigabytes and terabytes are so passé. It's soon going to be a zettabyte world thanks to all the digital data--images, books, music, movies, video, documents, maps, you name it--that we collect and engage with throughout our lives.

According to Gartner analysts John Monroe and Joseph Unsworth, there is "a widespread and ongoing readiness at the executive level to curtail production at any moment..." and "the HDD sector intends to closely and continuously align production with evolving demand..." After the NAND price free fall in the first two quarters of 2012, a similar resolve seems to be developing in that industry. That, however, can change in any competitive market at the drop of a hat.

According to Forward Insights analyst Greg Wong, "Steady 20 to 25 percent yearly price drops over the next few years" for NAND should be the norm. Substantiating this is Gartner's prediction of a drop from the current 85 cents per gigabyte to around 25 cents per gigabyte by 2016 for NAND. The Gartner numbers also predict a drop from the current 6 cents per GB for 3.5-inch desktop hard drives, to a mere 0.8 cents in 2016. Also, 2.5-inch mobile hard drives should drop from their current 11.5 cents per gigabyte to 3.5 cents per gigabyte.

While mainstream storage technology development is slowing in terms of density and performance, it's important to remember just how far we've come. In his 2006 presentation, "Fifty Years in Hard Drives and the Exciting Road Ahead," Seagate's Mark Kryder pointed out that if automobiles had progressed as far as hard drives in the time period from 1979 to 2006, each vehicle would carry 150,000 people, cost $15, and travel nearly a million miles an hour at 36,000 mpg. That's a heck of an improvement, and it will continue for a decade at least with the present basic technologies. After that, who knows what we wily humans have up our sleeves?

(PCWorld's Melissa Perenson & Tom Spring contributed to this report.)


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