Samsung: HDD and SSD will continue to coexist

In mapping out where it sees the most growth for hard disk drives and solid state drives, the company says both will be necessary in the future.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Samsung will immediately begin shipping two new high-capacity hard drives Tuesday, but it also is betting heavily on solid-state drives.

The company gave details regarding its storage business at a press event here, and also gave a good indication of how it sees its fortunes unfolding over the next few years. Samsung shipped 13,052,200 hard drives in the fourth quarter of 2007, which puts it in fourth place behind industry leader Seagate, which shipped 49,595,000 last quarter, according to IDC.

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The first new drive is a 2.5-inch, 500GB--or half a terabyte--hard-disk drive (HDD) for notebook PCs. That is achieved with three separate platters, or discs where information is stored, that fit 167GB each. It has what has become regarded as a mainstream spin speed of 5,400 revolutions per minute. Fujitsu announced its own 500GB drive last week, but it has a slower spin speed of 4,200 rpm.

The Samsung drive's form factor, a slim 9.5 millimeters high, means it will fit into the increasingly slimmed-down notebooks vendors are turning out. Making hard drives that can easily work with a variety of slim PCs could mean more potential customers for Samsung. But it's not just for consumer notebooks. Samsung says this could also work in digital video recorders, next-generation game consoles, and external hard drives for personal storage.

The company also announced a 2.5-inch 250GB HDD. It has a lower capacity, but better performance with a rotation speed of 7,200 rpm.

While it continues to push high-capacity hard drives, Samsung clearly wants it both ways. Jon Kang, president of Samsung Semiconductor, which is the division of the company responsible for chips and storage, said HDD, optical drives, solid-state drives, and hybrid (a combination of HDD and SSD) drives, "will continue to exist." Further, the company has no plans to pit mechanical hard drives against solid-state flash drives, Kang said.

That was clear in the emphasis the company put on its 64GB SSD product that is showing up in some recently announced machines from top PC vendors. The ruggedized Dell XFR D630 announced Tuesday uses it, as does the Dell XPS M1330, the Alienware Area 51 m9750 (it uses two of them), and Lenovo's new ThinkPad X300.

Samsung flash drive
Samsung is "really excited" that Alienware, Dell, and Lenovo laptops come packed with this 64GB SSD. Samsung Semiconductor

A few consumer notebooks come with options for SSD today, but that's going to change. Samsung expects that the market share of solid-state memory will go from 1 percent used in PCs to 27 percent over the next three years. That's why Samsung is particularly stoked about Lenovo's X300, a superslim ultraportable that comes with its SSD standard, not just as a more expensive option. Jim Elliott, vice president of memory marketing for Samsung, called the X300's debut a "hallmark event" for computing where soon more and more solid-state drives will be configured into notebook platforms, not as an afterthought configurable option.

"We expect this to be the beginning of a trend," Elliott said.

And though 64GB SSD is what's available now, but he did say that 128GB SSD will be available to a few PC manufacturers by midyear.

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