It's never too late to jump aboard the bandwagon. Data storage giant Seagate Technology (Nasdaq: STX ) has announced its first solid-state drives (SSD) and the intention to come up with more.
That's after years of sitting on the SSD sidelines while competitors like Western Digital (NYSE: WDC ) jumped right in. The SSD market is still in its relative infancy, however, because the Flash memory chips powering these ultra-fast and low-power storage devices cost much more than the traditional spinning magnetic platters of a regular old hard drive. According to Gartner research quoted by Seagate, the enterprise SSD market should hit $1 billion in 2010 sales.
Though late to the party, Seagate is arriving in style. Using extra-fancy, high-quality memory chips, Seagate's Pulsar drive should outduel the finest SSD products from Western Digital, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , Samsung, and others by a wide margin for write-intensive tasks like video editing and large databases. The Pulsar also introduces a new idea: A capacitor inside the device stores enough power to let the drive finish what it was doing if power should go out. That's an enterprise-friendly feature designed to minimize data loss, and similar in spirit to how Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) runs its servers. This could be the start of a trend.
So Seagate has joined the enterprise segment of the SSD market, but the world's leading supplier of hard disks is staying out of the consumer market until further notice. You won't see Seagate Pulsars at Newegg anytime soon (hurry up and go public already, by the way!), though a few errant drives might end up at online auctions. The likes of Intel, Imation (NYSE: IMN ) , and Micron Technology (NYSE: MU ) will continue to divide and conquer the end-user market for solid-state drives in the meantime.
In the end, I fully expect SSDs to become the standard storage format, with hard disks being relegated to a low-budget, high-capacity niche. Seagate will embrace the new market by then, of course. The question is, will it be too late for the old-guard leader to join the revolution, or will Seagate's brand strength transfer to the new product segment unharmed?
I'm leaning toward a new world order where Seagate's stature is diminished, but what do you think? While SSDs may be making quite a bit of progress, there’s still a long way to go before they’re cost-competitive under most circumstances with the good old-fashioned hard disk drives of today. Discuss in the comments below, and boost your karma balance at the same time.