Analysis: Apple's new iMac a turning point for hybrid drives

Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:40am EST
 

By Himank Sharma

(Reuters) - When Apple Inc marketing head Phil Schiller launched the new iMac in October he enthused about its "Fusion Drive", a storage option combining the cost and capacity benefits of hard drives with the speed of flash memory.

For many, the pitch was probably lost amid the buzz accompanying the launch of the new iPad mini the same day.

But Apple's adoption of a technology that has been around for years, without really catching on, looks likely to finally bring "hybrid" drives into the mainstream.

That will mean faster PCs that are cheap enough for most consumers, very soon.

The outlook has also suddenly brightened for makers of hard disk drives (HDDs), whose share of the $45 billion storage drive market is being eroded by makers of more modern solid state drives(SSDs) that are faster, more reliable but also pricier.

"Hybrid drives will be the future of mass market cheap storage," said John Rydning, an analyst at technology research firm IDC. "Although so far we haven't seen much traction, I see all the pieces falling into place now that even Apple is selling these."

Hybrid drives -- a cross between a standard HDD and a flash chip -- have been slow to take off because until now only Seagate Technology Plc was offering them. PC makers normally shy away from sourcing from a single supplier.

They also cost more than traditional hard drives, and have been seen as a transitional technology as the market waited for SSD prices to drop.   Continued...

 
Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Philip Schiller displays a new model of the iMac desktop computer during an Apple event in San Jose, California October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith