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Only the fittest of the fittest will survive the hard drive wars, according to DISK/Trend, the specialist market research firm. In 1999, there are only 18 active "or announced" manufacturers of rigid disk drives, compared with 20 in 1998 and 59 players at the beginning of the 90s. Companies have to adapt to an environment of "very short product life cycles and intense competition" if they want to stay in the game. However, the market could be turning the corner, DISK/TREND says. This year, disk drive sales are looking up, after a bloody 1998, when vendors sacrificed profits in a scramble for market share. In its 1990 report on the rigid disk drive market, DISK/TREND forecasts overall revenues to increase 7.7 per cent, boosted by a 17 per cent increase in unit shipments. In 1998, the industry shipped 144.9 million units, 11 per cent up on 1997. But the dollar value fell 5.2 per cent. Shipments in 1999 are expected to approach 170 million units rising to over 250 million units by 2002. IBM was the world's biggest disk drive vendor in 1998, with 27.1 per cent market share gained through captive (i.e. sold with its own computers) and non-captive sales, according to DISK/TREND. Seagate Technology and Quantum were second and third with respective shares of 19.8 per cent and 12.4 per cent. Prices per megabyte are becoming vanishingly small. In 1988 one megabyte would set you back $11.54. Today it would cost about 4.3 cents and in 2002, 0.3 cents. On the same timescale, the report predicts a rapid increase in drive capacity: Three to five gigabytes last year, five to ten this year and by 2002 the leading product group will be the 40 to 80 gigabyte range. ® Find out more at DISK/TREND

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