Tech Industry

Western hard drive joins 10.1GB crowd

At least seven existing or upcoming families of desktop PCs now offer 10GB storage as a standard feature.

Western Digital introduced a low-cost 10.1GB hard drive today, joining a bevy of manufacturers in offering more capacity for less money.

The high-capacity hard drive for PCs will sell for around $340, about the same as much lower-capacity EIDE (enhanced integrated device electronics) products only a year ago. The Irvine, California, storage company said its Caviar drives will be available to PC makers by the end of the month.

Similar-sized drives from Maxtor, Quantum, and others already go for between $275 and $350 at computer resellers. Of the major vendors, only Seagate has yet to introduce a comparable product.

Bigger is clearly better among hard drive vendors. At least seven existing or upcoming families of desktop PCs now offer 10GB storage as a standard feature, according John Monroe, chief analyst for rigid disk drives at Dataquest. About a year ago, 4GB constituted the lofty top for desktop systems.

"The disk drive industry provides best price-performance value of entire PC industry," he said. "Not only is there more capacity and greater performance, but also much less [in terms of ] price every single year--too much less in fact, which is why the industry is hurting."

"So many competitors have become so technologically strong in achieving some measure of manufacturing skill and ability to advance technologies and get them to market in time," he summarized.

Like its rivals' products, Western Digital's slim 3.5-inch hard drive comes with only three "platters," the magnetic-coated disks that store data. Each platter holds about 3.4GB, a denser concentration than previous hard drives. Fewer platters makes the hard drive cheaper to produce.

Higher-capacity platters also reduce the amount of time required to seek and retrieve information, according to Roland Baker, CEO of Net Express, a San Francisco Bay Area reseller that primarily deals with higher-end, Web-based customers.

"There have been these incredible advances in the past few years," he noted. "Drives are advancing much faster than chips [microprocessors]. They're advanced tenfold."

Net Express currently sells more 9GB drives than any other size, Baker said. Tied for second are 4GB and massive 18GB drives.

The demand for more capacity stems from the ever-increasing size of software, Baker and others said. Where DOS took up only about 3MB of space, Windows 95 occupies 100MB while the full installation of Windows 98 consumes some 300MB. "By the time you add Photoshop, and office [productivity] package such as Microsoft, and something like Quark, you can easily fill up 4GB. Gamers do this all time," Baker said.

The announcement comes on the same day that Western reported a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss, which it attributed to industry-wide oversupply of storage devices and plummeting prices for desktop computers.

The company posted a loss of $162.7 million, or $1.84 per share, for the fourth quarter, which ended June 27. The loss was more than the First Call estimate of $1.29 per share.