The Hard Drive Wars

Western Digital owns the second largest portion of the hard drive market, trailing only Seagate in terms of total number of drives shipped. The company accounts for roughly 21.5% of global hard drive sales, which puts it a long way from either taking the lead from Seagate (34.6%) or losing its seat to third-place Hitachi, which is at 17.2%. These numbers have remained fairly consistent for the past year, and hide what has become a fiercely competitive fight for the most lucrative portions of the market.

Drive Sales

Sales to OEM customers (that is to say, companies which buy large quantities of drives in bulk to put into computers or other devices) tend to be substantially less profitable than packaging drives in attractive boxes and selling them individually to consumers. OEM customers have entire departments devoted to squeezing pennies from manufacturers when negotiating these large buys, whereas a typical end-user has very limited influence over the price they pay for their drives. As the chart shows, both Western Digital and Seagate have dramatically reduced their percentage of sales to the OEM category, and are putting significant effort into expanding their retail presence in the market.

While retail consumers are largely unable to negotiate prices, they are generally more selective than OEMs in terms of the features they want from their drives. This has led to manufacturers focusing on improving the drives they market to end-users, and the resulting benefits in terms of capacity, performance, and feature sets have been obvious.

Western Digital's SE16 Line

Officially designated as being intended for high-performance desktop applications, the SE16 takes WD's mainstream SE line one step further by increasing the drive's cache to 16MB (vs. 8MB in the SE line), and adding WD proprietary technologies like SecurePark and Preemptive Wear Leveling (PWL). The resulting specifications allow for a 20% faster transfer rate (buffer to disk) than similar drives found on Western Digital's SE line, as well as a notable reduction in power consumption. These factors, combined with Western Digital's decision to extend the warranty of all Caviar-class drives purchased after August 1, 2007 to 3 years, gives Western Digital a powerful combination in their continued push for more retail market share.

Drive Specifications
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  • bigpow - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    signs of times..

    when we no longer perceived Made in China as a bad thing, I've been hearing that it's actually preferred over the recent streams of Made in Thailand electronics.

    It happened to Japan & Taiwan before, now most people are happy to see those labels when they buy something.

    And of course, the cool-er things in life are still Made in USA ;)

    -Not that where something is produced has anything to do with the quality.
  • Googer - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    I noticed the Western Digital Raptor 150 was missing from this chart:">
  • Gary Key - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    I have no idea why, but after hitting our engine update button again, it is there now. :)
  • Googer - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    In your benchmarking, you did not mention the size of the swapfile you have your OS set to use. I am sure it has an effect on application throughput. A static sized file is needed for benchmarking consistency.
  • Gary Key - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    Our standard swapfile is fixed at 2048MB and we clean the prefetch folder after each benchmark run.
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    You can fill a WHS with 6 1TB drives for so cheap it will be great! Acoustics and heat will be a selling point for lots of people what that comes around.
  • yyrkoon - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    Heh, have you ever owned a 'Deathstar' ? Many, including myself will never venture down that road again.
  • Martimus - Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - link

    I have avoided IBM drives after mine died on me after only about one year. Of course Hitachi bought them out, but I don't know if they have any better longevity than they used to.
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    An Emachines computer I bought a few years ago had a Deskstar drive. Other than the anti-static meowing noise, no problems with it for the 3 years I owned it.
  • mostlyprudent - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    I am most impressed at how well the Hitachi 1TB drive continues to sit at the top of so many of the benchmarks.

    Your conclusion stating how well the WD drive does against the Seagate omitted the point raised in the Samsung article recently posted here. That is, Seagate's drive is almost a year older and their new 7200.11 drives are just around the corner.

    Overall, it is impressive to see how tightly grouped these drive are. There seems very little reason to even consider a Raptor anymore.

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