Impact of hard drive shortage to linger through 2013

Lenovo out of 7200rpm replacement hard drives

Hard disk drive supply shortages in the wake of Thailand flooding will continue to affect consumers, computer system manufacturers and corporate IT shops into 2013, according to market research firm IDC.

"I think the most painful period will occur now through February of next year. We expect the situation will improve, but it won't feel as if things are back to normal until 2013," said John Rydning, an IDC analyst who follows the hard disk drive market.

Rydning said supplies will increase to the point where it will be possible to meet "immediate demand" in the second half of next year, but distribution channels, online retail sites and system manufacturers will continue to feel the affects into the following year.

This week, Lenovo sent an email to its corporate IT customers telling them it is out of a number of hard disk drives, including the highly popular 7,200-rpm models.

In the email obtained by Computerworld, a Lenovo representative stated that customers who normally purchase systems with 160GB 7,200-rpm drives, or various other drives that are unavailable, will have to settle for "off-spec" drives.

The Lenovo representative said the hard drive supply chain remains fluid and is monitored daily by the company's executives.

"Akin to the hysteria when banks defaulted in the 1930[s], PC orders across the industry are being placed for which HD supply does not exist," the rep wrote. "The Lenovo Global Supply Chain (GSC) Team is providing updates throughout each day. In this regard, we will all have to be flexible and adjust expectations. Simply put, the configuration to which you have been accustomed, unfortunately may now be in default, and we'll have to adjust our configuration and build a system that has an available hard drive," the email stated.

Lenovo said it will swap unavailable drives for another product the industry can still provide, such as a 5,400-rpm model. Even then, customers will have to wait an additional 45 to 60 days for those drives to become available, the email stated.

According to the Lenovo email, the drives that are unavailable for some ThinkPad laptops include 750GB 5,200-rpm models and those with configurations of 320GB 5,400-rpm, 250GB 7,200-rpm and 160GB 7,200-rpm.

Lenovo did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

"I think, in part, what you're seeing from Lenovo is an indication of what we can expect for the next six months. There will be drives available but not the ones you want," Rydning said.

Hardest hit

Western Digital, the largest producer of hard drives, was hit the hardest by the Thailand flooding. IDC predicts that up to 75% of its production will be temporarily shut down.

Four industrial parks were hit the hardest by the flooding, which began in the northern part of Thailand and worked its way south. Farthest north is the Rojana Industrial Park, which has since been drained of floodwaters and is coming back online. Hitech, which makes drive components, has also been drained. Bangpa-in, Western Digital's largest hard drive production facility, was partially affected. And Navanakorn, where both Western Digital and Toshiba perform hard drive assembly, is still being affected by the floodwaters.

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