The Hard Drive Wars

Western Digital owns the second largest portion of the hard drive market, trailing only Seagate in terms of total number of drives shipped. The company accounts for roughly 21.5% of global hard drive sales, which puts it a long way from either taking the lead from Seagate (34.6%) or losing its seat to third-place Hitachi, which is at 17.2%. These numbers have remained fairly consistent for the past year, and hide what has become a fiercely competitive fight for the most lucrative portions of the market.

Drive Sales

Sales to OEM customers (that is to say, companies which buy large quantities of drives in bulk to put into computers or other devices) tend to be substantially less profitable than packaging drives in attractive boxes and selling them individually to consumers. OEM customers have entire departments devoted to squeezing pennies from manufacturers when negotiating these large buys, whereas a typical end-user has very limited influence over the price they pay for their drives. As the chart shows, both Western Digital and Seagate have dramatically reduced their percentage of sales to the OEM category, and are putting significant effort into expanding their retail presence in the market.

While retail consumers are largely unable to negotiate prices, they are generally more selective than OEMs in terms of the features they want from their drives. This has led to manufacturers focusing on improving the drives they market to end-users, and the resulting benefits in terms of capacity, performance, and feature sets have been obvious.

Western Digital's SE16 Line

Officially designated as being intended for high-performance desktop applications, the SE16 takes WD's mainstream SE line one step further by increasing the drive's cache to 16MB (vs. 8MB in the SE line), and adding WD proprietary technologies like SecurePark and Preemptive Wear Leveling (PWL). The resulting specifications allow for a 20% faster transfer rate (buffer to disk) than similar drives found on Western Digital's SE line, as well as a notable reduction in power consumption. These factors, combined with Western Digital's decision to extend the warranty of all Caviar-class drives purchased after August 1, 2007 to 3 years, gives Western Digital a powerful combination in their continued push for more retail market share.

Drive Specifications
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  • retrospooty - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    "There seems very little reason to even consider a Raptor anymore. "

    Except for hte fact that the Raptor 150 is 1 1/2 years old (thats older than the 7200.10 you mentioned) and a 300g Raptor, hopefully with 32m cache is also right around the corner. A300g Raptor with 32m cache will once again own the retail sector by a wide margin.
    Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    It will be interesting to see what new Raptor with 32MB of cache can do. I am still skeptical whether it will be able to manage the kind of performance advantage the Raptors had when they were first introduced. I personally think WD will have a tough time charging a significant price premium over other 300GB drives, let alone 750GB and 1TB drives. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    quote:

    am still skeptical whether it will be able to manage the kind of performance advantage the Raptors had when they were first introduced.


    You mean the 'whopping' 58MB/s average ? The raptors when first released had issues. Less so now, and they perform much better. Not good enough to justify the cost in my opinion, but whatever floats your boat . . .
    Reply
  • ceefka - Friday, August 10, 2007 - link

    The Raptor would need more than 32MB cache to get (far) ahead of the pack again, like it did when it was first introduced. Three things they can do:
    1. Higher density platter :perpendicular
    2. 15K rpm? I don't even know if that is possible, but it would be cool.
    3. Like you said: 32MB or even more cache.
    Reply
  • Martimus - Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - link

    The higher density would slow it down, because the heads would need to be more precise. I think that is why the raptors always have less capacity than their caviar brand. Reply
  • retrospooty - Friday, August 10, 2007 - link

    Right now the Raptor 150 is ahead of the pack with 16m cache vs 32, and a much lower density per platter, and no perpendicular storage. Add those 3 things and we might be cooking. I have heard rumors that 15k is in the works, but not confirmed.

    Reply
  • Basilisk - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    Or, you may need something loud enough to drown-out your partner's snoring. :) Reply
  • yyrkoon - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    Funny that, I own a 750GB Seagate, the computer sits less than 4 feet from my head when I sleep up on a desk, and I cannot hear it. Now, If it were not the end of summer, and I were not living in the desert, had all my fans off, I MAY hear the occational disk chatter, but I'll be dahmed if it would ever keep me awake . . .

    Sometimes I wonder about some of you guys . . .
    Reply
  • retrospooty - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    ??? I dunno. I see AT's comparison always has the Raptor being loud, but I hafve had 1 36g 2 75g and 2 150g Raptors, none of them have been noisy at all, not even compared to other drives. Was I just lucky or is AT's samples unlucky? Reply
  • semo - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    is there a difference between the serial ata and the pata se16 wd drives? Reply

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