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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  • Dave Robinet - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    Actually, the difference is that the EIDE drive only is offered up to a 500GB capacity. This precludes it from having the additional features given to the 750GB drive, as mentioned in the article.

    If you're only using the single drive under "normal" desktop usage, however, you're not terribly likely to see a big difference in performance between a 500GB SATA and 500GB EIDE, all things being equal.

    Thanks for reading!

  • semo - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    i understand the sata vs. pata arguments. it's just the new features and low power draw that interest me and since the model numbers look so similar i thought that they would share the same characteristics.
  • Frumious1 - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    Besides the one using a slower, outdated interface? Probably not. Thankfully, the 750GB drive is NOT available in PATA format as far as I can tell. WD's EIDE offerings top out at 500GB on their website. Seriously, who buys a top-end hard drive in EIDE format these days? Hell I only have one IDE connection on my motherboard, and that's no longer in use!
  • semo - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    the 750gb version may be a top end part but the 500gb is very reasonably priced. anyway, you can never convince me that a hard drive is "high end", whatever the cost. real world performance does not vary much and depends very much on usage patterns. now an ssd or a revolutionary redesign of hdd i can consider to be high end.
  • Dave Robinet - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    Agreed - if you can use SATA, you will. Some people can't, however, and the EIDE interface isn't an incredible bottleneck to the system (like, for example, the move from ISA to PCI graphics cards was in adopting the new bus).

    You're right, though - there's no reason to intentionally buy EIDE anymore if you have SATA available in your system. :)

    Thanks for reading!

  • Basilisk - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    'Won't there be negligible P-ATA demand, with none from manuf's? So, 'probably no P-ATA version, or a hefty premium on it.

    If my Linux distro supported the S-ATA controller chip, I'd spend the $20-$25 on a PCI or PCI-e S-ATA card and ignore the P-ATA. It would be a shame to have that P-ATA 750GB and later find yourself w/o a m/b having P_ATA to make good use of it! [Okay, you could probably buy a P-ATA controller card....]
  • wilburpan - Thursday, August 9, 2007 - link

    Who buys a large capacity EIDE hard drive? I did recently.

    Why? I have an old computer that I've repurposed into a file server running Linux. This computer is old enough that it doesn't have SATA connections.

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