Consumer SSDs to break out in 2012, Gartner says

Consumer solid-state drives will have a break-out year in 2012 due to falling prices, which will make SSDs a primary storage option for mainstream users, Gartner said this week.

By the second half of 2012, prices of mainstream PC SSDs will reach $1 per gigabyte, which will put them in reach of consumers, Gartner said in a report on a study which it conducted in late April. SSDs broke into the enterprise market in 2010, but high prices have kept consumers from taking them up to store data in PCs.

Thinner and lighter laptops such as MacBook Air and Dell's Vostro V130 now come with SSDs, and more PC makers are offering them as an alternative to hard drives. SSDs are considered smaller, faster and more power-efficient than hard drives. Hewlett-Packard and Dell have measured longer battery life in new laptops with SSDs than configurations with hard drives.

As of today, an Intel 160GB X25-M Mainstream SSD is priced starting at $409 on Best Buy's Web site, while a Kingston 64GB SSDNow is priced at around $120.

Prices for SSDs, a type of NAND flash memory, will decline as consumers demand more storage capacity on devices, Gartner said. The average selling price of NAND flash is expected to decline by 30% this year, and by another 36% from 2011 to 2012.

Prices are also expected to fall as manufacturers add capacity to meet the increasing demand for NAND flash, Gartner said. NAND flash demand has spiked due to a growing interest in devices like tablets.

SSDs this year stored a relatively small portion of the data stashed in NAND flash compared to flash cards and USB drives, which represented 38% of the NAND bit consumption, Gartner said. By comparison, SSDs represented 7.9% of bit consumption in 2010, with the bulk coming in the mainstream market. By 2012, the bit consumption for SSDs is expected to grow to 15.9%, Gartner said.

By 2012, solid-state drives will continue to absorb a larger portion of the manufacturing capacity in factories, Gartner said in a research note issued this week.

The global recession slowed down the NAND flash market in 2008, when manufacturers were forced to reduce utilization rates in the wake of slow demand for products. But recovery started in late 2009 as demand for products such as PCs and consumer electronics stabilized, which led to growth in demand for NAND flash products.

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