SSDs still no threat to notebook hard drives

Pricing for SSD-equipped notebooks must below $700 to be competitive with devices that use hard drives, researcher says

Notebook computers equipped with hard disk drives won't face a significant threat this year from those with solid-state drives (SSDs), according to a report issued by IHS iSuppli.

Worldwide market share forecast for Notebook PCs

SSD-based notebook PCs like Apple's MacBook Air and Microsoft's new Surface tablet PC pose no short-term threat to the much larger universe of hard drive-based mobile devices in a sluggish notebook business, according to the . market research firm's report.

"SSD-equipped notebooks are faster, more lightweight and sport a thinner profile -- some of the characteristics that make them popular and desirable to consumers -- but they are also more expensive and feature less overall storage space," said IHS iSuppli analyst Fang Zhang.

For instance, a MacBook Air with a 64GB solid state drive can cost up to $999, the same price as an HDD-based notebook PC with significantly more storage capacity, Zhang said.

The survey indicates that consumers still value storage capacity over system performance.

In its report, the competition between the hard drive technologies will likely heat up once the price of 64GB SSD-equipped notebooks falls below $700, which IHS iSuppli called the "sweet spot for [notebook] pricing."

"A price cut by Apple on the MacBook Air will likely affect the future prospects of HDD-based notebooks," the IHS iSuppli report said.

Notebook PCs outfitted with hard drives larger than 500GB and priced from $450 to $550 accounted for 32% of the market.

The second-biggest segment of the notebook market -- 26% -- belonged to those devices priced between $350 and $450 and with hard drives larger than 320GB. SSD notebooks with 128GB capacity and very high-end HDD notebook PCs, both priced at more than $900, accounted for only 2% of the market, IHS iSuppli said.

The IHS iSuppli's report didn't count noebook PCs with hybrid drives that combine flash storage and spinning disk. In an earlier report, IHS iSuppli said hybrid drives aren't expected to challenge hard drives.

IHS iSuppli said its latest report doesn't take into account the yet-to-be-released Surface tablet PC from Microsoft because its expected launch in the third quarter will be too late to impact 2012 notebook market numbers.

Additionally, the consumer tablet version of the Surface, dubbed Surface RT, features just 32GB to 64GB of SSD space--too small to run against conventional notebook PCs, IHS iSuppli stated.

"Contention could conceivably arise in the form of the Pro version of the Surface, whose SSD storage of 64GB to 128GB SSD means the tablet could be used as a functional PC -- even though its real bearing on the notebook market cannot be gauged until the Surface Pro is introduced sometime early next year," IHS iSuppli's report states.

The threat potential from Microsoft's device is more uncertain at this point given that pricing hasn't been set, the research firm said, adding that the device faces the $700 price ceiling of notebook PCs in general. The firm added that the Surface device includes a physical keyboard, not available on the tablet market leader, Apple's iPad.

Notebook sales have already been battered in the time that the iPad first entered the market in 2010.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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