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Seagate sees big drive capacity jump coming

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Seagate expects a significant increase in disk capacities this year and reckons it's got the jump on the competition.

Stifel Nicolaus' Aaron Rakers was present at recent Seagate analyst briefing and has posted a note to clients explaining Seagate's view of the world.

First of all Seagate is unfazed by the supposed coming tablet boom, with dozens of flash-using tablets bursting through the doors blasted open by the iPad, and multi-level cell flash poised to make inroads into the netbook and notebook markets.

Second, Seagate expects 2011 to be a year of meaningful capacity increase transitions across its product line with a step up in areal density with sixth generation perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR). It's saying there could be/will be a desktop hard disk drive (3.5-inch) transition this quarter and a notebook one (2.5-inch) around the middle of the year.

Seagate thinks it is three months ahead of competitors in the desktop HDD space and up to nine months ahead in the enterprise product space. We assume this is ahead in shipment and not announcement terms.

Big words

Them there's big words, Mr Seagate CEO Lukzo, especially given Western Digital's desktop and notebook drive shipment increases in the past couple of years. If Seagate's claims are accurate then maybe the company will claw back the unit ship leadership that Western Digital wrestled away from it last year. It is surely lusting to do so.

Where are we with Seagate's current products? The 7,200rpm Barracuda desktops are at 2TB with the 4-platter XT and a 347Gbit/in2 areal density. A 2TB, 5,900rpm Barracuda Green has three platters and 422Gbit/in2. The enterprise Cheetah 15K.7 (15,000rpm) has 600GB and 225Gbit/in2 and the enterprise 2.5-inch Savvio is at 600GB with the 10K.4 (10,000rpm) and 252Gbit/in2, and 146GB with the 15K.2 (15,000rpm) and 237.1Gbit/in2.

The notebook Momentus 5400.7 offers 640GB on two platters with 507Gbit/in2 and is reckoned to be a fifth generation PMR drive. Where are these puppies going?

That depends on how much of a step change there is in areal density. The 4th to 5th generation PMR increase was around 30 per cent so let's use that as the gen 5 to gen 6 increase, and see what it gives us. Barrucuda XT and Barracuda Green desktops jump from 2TB to 2.6TB while the 3TB, 5-platter Barracuda XT goes up to 3.9TB - surely that would be pushed to 4TB though.

The enterprise Cheetahs go to 780GB and the 10,000rpm Savvio will reach 780GB too, while the 15,000rpm Savvio will increase its capacity to 190GB - which might get pumped up to 200GB for round number comfort. In the notebook area the Momentus would get 832GB.

With Seagate predicting Hitachi GST, Samsung Toshiba and WD will be between a quarter and nine months behind in the desktop and enterprise HDD markets respectively, it has that much time to ship as many drives as it can without any competition.

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