MacBook Air could foretell death of hard drives
Analysts say Apple's backing and declining prices of SSDs could convince consumers and CIOs that hard drives aren't always needed
Computerworld - When Apple CEO Steve Jobs this week introduced a slimmer version of the MacBook Air, an ultra-portable laptop without a traditional hard disk drive, he said it represents "the future of notebooks." Several industry observers agree.
Beginning with MP3 players, NAND flash technology in the form of solid state drives (SSD) has been devouring the consumer hard drive market from the bottom up as prices go down.
And, while hard disk drives will still populate servers and storage systems in corporate data centers for years to come, there will be fewer of them as solid state drives cannibalize the top tiers of data storage there.
Meanwhile, analysts say that NAND flash will eventually be embedded on the motherboards of consumer electronic products, reducing the bottleneck between the computer's processor and its mass storage device.
For Apple, the new MacBook Air represents a new price point for systems with SSDs, which will mean some cannibalization of its existing MacBook laptops sales.
The MacBook Air tapers from just over half an inch to a tenth of an inch in thickness (.68-in to .11 inches), and it weighs just 2.9 lbs. At the heart of its slimness, lightweight, low power consumption and durability is a solid state drive, which ranges in capacity from 64GB to 256GB depending on the model. By comparison, Apple's MacBook, which has a 250GB tradional hard drive, weights 4.7-pounds.
After Apple cut the Air's price this week, it matches the MacBook's $999 price tag.
"Flash had to get to the point where it is cost effective,"said Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at market research firm In-Stat. "Now we're down to that point."
While solid state drives are still an order of magnitude more expensive than consumer hard disk drives, lower-capacity 64GB SSDs can be had for an affordable $100 or so, and 64GB is plenty of capacity for most users, according to McGregor.
While hard disk drives have increased in density and capacity with staggering speed over the past few years due to emerging technologies like perpendicular recording and larger drive sectors, consumers have started sharing more and more data through the Internet and storing it in the cloud rather than on mobile devices. Thus most users don't need any type of multi-terabyte drive on a laptops.
"Even though we hear content is expanding exponentially ... a lot of it's not stored on the hard drive," said McGregor. "You can get to a point where SSDs just make sense, especially on mobile PCs."
McGregor added, "Even digital home products like Apple's new Apple TV switched from having a hard drive to just using a streaming model. All the other home devices we're seeing coming out are going the same way. You don't have to store that information, you just have to be able to access it and buffer it. That's a significant change over the past few years in the use of the cloud."
- Even rivals are waiting for Apple to get into wearables
- Apple preps final non-security Mavericks update
- New Yosemite dev preview may herald public beta update later this week
- iPhone 5C's China bust raises questions about Apple's pricing for '14 models
- Mac sales so far in '14 may signal share push
- China scrubs Apple's iPad and MacBooks from government buying list
- Circle the date: Apple's iPhone 6 event slated for Sept. 9
- Stable Mac prices fuel reliable profit engine
- Apple unveils minor bumps to MacBook Pro laptops
- Feds arrest Florida man who allegedly conned Apple out of $309K
- 2014 Healthcare Data Management Survey Summary This report provides insights into how much information Healthcare IT organizations are managing, the rate of data growth they are experiencing and which...
- State of Cloud Security Report In a relatively short time, cloud computing, specifically Infrastructure-as a-Service, has shifted from a new but unproven approach to an accepted, even inevitable,...
- What is this "File Sync" Thing and Why Should I Care About It? All of a sudden, getting a file from your work laptop to your iPad became as simple as clicking "Save." So it's no...
- Server and system administrators challenged to keep up with enterprise storage explosion Read this whitepaper to learn how administrators are leveraging their existing skills to simplify the management of storage and servers.
- Brunswick Moves Messaging and Collaboration to the IBM cloud Gerry Orten, Jr, Electronic Messaging Manager at Brunswick talks about why Brunswick moved to the IBM cloud.
- Increase Your Data Center IQ Discover how to improve network efficiency, lower IT costs and more proactively manage your physical, virtual and cloud environments. All Data Storage White Papers | Webcasts