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Watch out, PC disk drive floggers: Cloud will rust up those spinners

Reliable cloudy service could put them out of business


Blocks and Files The cloud is going to impact disk drive manufacturers' bottom line, big time. Think about it: if Dropbox, iCloud and SkyDrive succeed, people won't need disk drives on their PCs. Are you listening Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital?

The biggest ever threat to their consumer computer disk drive business is cloud-based file 'n synch services. I have a Dropbox icon on my iMac and two notebooks and tablet. The two notebooks have flash memory and no disks. Everything on the desktop and notebook systems is backed up to external disk drives.

That gives me a desktop internal drive and three external drives. Before I would have had five drives in total, but the two notes are disk-less.

I don't want disk drives; I want my data stored and accessed quickly with rock-solid reliability. Disk drives have crashed many times in my personal computing history. I admire the technology immensely but it isn't good enough. Every day I use cloud-based file 'n synch and my files are available and synchronised between my systems is another day of thinking: "This stuff is reliable."

I don't keep all my cash in a hardware container in my house. Why should I keep my data in hardware containers in my house?

I get bits of cash from the ATM when I need it, and tell the banks to transfer money when I need it – via debit and credit cards.

I can get bits of data locally from flash memory when I need it, and thanks to cloud-based file 'n synch, my data is available wherever I need it.

So, will I jump, get a paid cloud-based account, and store all my files on Dropbox or iCloud or SkyDrive or even Google? If I did my electricity charges would go down: no more disks to spin. My domestic cable clutter would lessen: no more disk data and power cables. I wouldn't suffer from disk crashes again.

What's stopping me? Trust and convenience. I like having the disks that hold my data in my hands and don't, as yet, trust cloudy service punters to be always there when I need them. I certainly don't trust my internet service provider to be always there when I need it. BT? Are you joking? I like using Apple's Time Machine to restore files.

Imagine if Time Machine worked with Apple's iCloud and iCloud/SkyDrive/DropBox was rock-solid and the internet service was rock-solid. It's a lot of ifs, but should the circumstances warrant, I might ask myself: "Why would I ever buy a disk drive again?"

I wouldn't.

Think about it.

Mobile phone and tablet users don't have external disk drives which store content and backup data for the phones and tablets. With acceptable speed and reliability cloud file sync 'n share and backup services, the average desktop and notebook user wouldn't buy a disk drive ever again either.

Think about it some more.

With only a little increase in network and cloud storage service reliability, millions – even tens of millions – of desktop and notebook PC users would stop buying disk drives, either inside their systems or for external use.

The disk drive suppliers would then face catastrophic falls in their shipments. Sales to cloud service providers would increase massively but I don't think they'll compensate for the lost consumer PC/notebook internal and external drive sales, not by any stretch of the imagination.

The great boom in desktop and notebook PC sales was driven by their ability to use disk drives to store all the data they needed, from OS boot code to images. They don't need to do that anymore: flash is the local storage and the great big disk in the sky, cloud, is the bulk storage, instead of disk. Exit hard disk drive.

I think that, over the next five years consumer desktop, notebook and external disk drive sales will downturn dramatically and continue into a full-scale collapse. The consumer disk drive gig will be over. ®


What about business desktops? Let me just mention the consumerisation of IT, BYOD and VDI. Virtual desktops don't need disk drives... but that's another blog for another time.

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