Seagate: Apple is wrong about SSDs, hybrids are the future

By on October 25, 2010, 6:30 AM
During Apple's most recent Mac event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the new MacBook Air represented the future of the notebook. The major hardware difference between the Air and traditional notebooks is that it features a Solid State Drive (SSD) rather than a typical hard drive. Seagate meanwhile believes that SSDs won't be killing off traditional hard drives in the notebook sector, and will be replaced instead by hybrids.

"Obviously Steve [Jobs] sits in a position that only Steve sits in, in terms of the offering that they provide to their customers and its obviously pretty competing," Seagate CEO Steve Luczo said during the Q&A section in the company's last earnings call. "I would say though that from what we know of the offering for example Apple, the percentage of their units that they sell with SSDs versus HDDs is a tiny fraction. I think it's under three percent, certainly under five percent. Obviously this isn't the first product that they've had." You can read the whole transcript of the conference call over at Seeking Alpha.

Luczo goes on to say that he's had a Macbook Air with an SSD in it for a year and half now and he finds "the lack of capacity" frustrating since he spends "a lot of time cleaning out files" in order to "make room for not a lot content." He also complains that his "SSD drive takes about 25, 30 seconds to boot now versus the 12 seconds" it took when he first bought it, though he admits that has more to do with the OS than the SSD technology. His point is that Seagate's hybrid HDD/SSD devices don't suffer from this same problem. "I think as Seagate introduced hybrid drive last quarter, you get basically the features and function of SSD at more like disc drive cost and capacity... So I think that's where mainstream notebook computing is going," he concluded.

User Comments: 76

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willard27 said:

World according to Steve Jobs.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

I'm no Apple fan but Jobs is right here. Seagate are going to be left behind with this thinking. It's a risky strategy which relies on flash being much more expensive than rotating disk storage. OCZ are almost tripling output capacity of SSD production. There are 1TB SSDs now. The largest HDD is 3TB isn't it? The gap is closing. I see SSDs on the market now with over 700MB/s read/write speeds - OCZ IBIS for example. The price is only going to go down. Many will argue the price vs performance is worth it now. Ask someone with an SSD what they think.

bugejakurt said:

I agree with Luczo. I think a Hybrid HDD/SSD will dominate the secondary storage market for both notebook and desktop computing in about a year. The most obvious reasons would be the cost and capacity. Many people doesn't care about speed or features, they just need a secondary storage with sufficient capacity without paying much.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

Well, I see HDD platters as large storage for media etc, and SSD's for high-priority stuff liek OS and productivity. Desktops can accommodate 2+ HDD's easily, whereas laptop mostly has one (someones two..).

So, this hybrid stuff will definitely be popular in the portable market.

SEverard said:

For once I agree with Steve Jobs. SSDs will be the future of HDDs. Moving parts in a hard drive are unnecessary now so why have a hybrid? Its just more to break. SSDs last longer, they are stronger and they are the best move for the future.

edison5do said:

Well as a person that usually store lots, lots of media, and also play games and care about speeds, IĀ'll probably will go for a Hybrid this hollydays. as I am on the butget market, I cannot afford 1 SSD + 1 Big HHD.


college spook said:

So how does a SSD hybrid work? Does it use a SSD to "buffer" as it writes to the HDD, or is it something completely different?

Apple is probably right about SSDs being the future of storage. They have too many advantages and the disadvantages are slowly going away as the tech gets better.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

For mobile platforms, the SSD makes much more sense, so in that Jobs is right (and I HATE agreeing with Steve-o on anything). Low power requirements, no moving parts and worries about impact or vibration, it's win-win for that market.

Now comes the "however" part... Currently, SSDs are too expensive when compared to spinning platters. And the storage density just can't compare. So, I can see Seagate's approach to the market. But, let's be honest, it's a short-sighted strategy, which will drive them into the ground as SSDs become cheaper and increase capacities. SSDs will dominate, sooner or later, so Seagate should no put all their eggs in one basket.

Seems to me that there are other better industries than notebooks for Seagate. The server markets are ideal for hybrids, both right now and longer term. Huge capacities, and improved read/write speeds from the hybridizing, make it a pretty ideal closed and protected environment for those hybrid drives.

Recycle said:

Having bought the Momentus XT, I have to say that my impressions of it are kinda iffy. Yes, there is speed compared to a traditional drive, but is that really noticeable after awhile? Not so much.

It's in my laptop, which I don't use nearly as often as my desktop, so I can't say that I really put it through the trials I should, but it still feels sluggish.

grimm808 said:

SSD's have been out for a bit now. The size capacity is growing, and it's becoming pretty known, even amongst PC-challenged consumers. With it's growing reputation, it would probably be in Seagates to hop on the bandwagon. SSD's are a little on the pricey side, but 250 GB's worth of blazing fast transfer rates, would keep me contempt.

Johny47 said:

Both these technologies sound(and SSD's ARE) brilliant, very reliable and fast(unless you accidentally defragment a SSD =P) but right now the price of even a small sized and very fast 'boot drive' SSD is in the low £100 mark and I don't think that's value for money.

In the future when they get reduced in price I'll probably end up getting one or this new hybrid but for now my 2 640GB Western digital Caviar Blue's will do fine =)

Guest said:

Certainly from a near-future point of view the hybrids are OK. Current SSD technology is not worthy for serious business. It is valid only for /temp and scratch data. If a block is gone all of it is gone. On disk drives, you got one bad block and luckily your data may be already recovered. So, what about? you absolutelly need backup, lets say a tiny RAID, doubling your costs.

Caveat Empor!

shadow elF

treeski treeski said:

I have to say I feel pretty ignorant about hybrid drives. I know they existed but I didn't realize any companies were spending a good deal of time/money advancing the technology. Are hybrids at the consumer level already? How do the prices compare to SSDs and HDDs? I'll have to look into them...

ChrisG683 said:

If hybrid drives can manage to crank up the amount of flash packed into it, then I can see it beating out SSD in the near future. However once SSD technology reaches critical mass where it becomes even faster and 300GB+ become reasonably priced, there probably won't be a reason to go back to a HDD except for massive 3TB+ storage

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay

Apple has been predicting the future for a long time (iPod, iPhone, iTunes Store, iPad).

BasiX12 said:

Well watching the two perspective, i have to say first of all that the solid state drive market is not huge in terms of selling units, plus solid state drive offers speed vs capacity in a world that right now the demand is concerned mainly on how much data they storage, ok speed is very important, but without great capacity speed becomes useless

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I have a Momentus XT HD which I pre-ordered and didn't cancel fast enough before it shipped when I realized I want a pure SSD. I use it as the OS drive for my second computer. I don't use it for a lot of extensive applications beyond multimedia but the boot times are much better on this computer, which has a less powerful AMD processor and running Vista as compared to my computer with a OC 920, 7, and Raptor Raid 0 array.

As far as use goes, I think that on desktop PCs, a smaller capacity SSD drive is a better purchase, as your average SSD buyer probably has a bunch of HDDs laying around to use as media storage drives.

I think in the laptop department these drives are a better idea right now, especially if you are not a power user. If your user experience does not go beyond using the internet, multimedia and a productivity suite, the XT might be really the way to go. You get decent storage capacity, much faster boot times, and the 4 GB flash probably ensures that most of the stuff you use gets placed in the buffer.

But in the long run, its all up in the air. I remember watching Screen Savers when they were going to attempt to build a computer with 1 TB in storage (wow...they'll never run out of room...)

Alster37 Alster37 said:

I still see SSD's as a product which doesn't really increase speed that much and costs a fair amount, and capacity is an obvious problem. I clean unwanted files and programs every two or so weeks, and my computer boots very quickly and the general speed is excellent. I am staying with my bog standard desk star 500GB for as long as it takes for a worthy replacement to come along.

VitaminC said:

Seems like just another corporation trying to squeeze out as much dough as they can out of every leg in the process of evolution. Even seagate will have to cave in at some point, especially in the general consumer market. My mom has a 250 gig HD, filled with 30 gigs of data and probably won't break 50 and even she would appreciate faster startup times since every other smaller gadget (IOS and Android) is almost instant on. especially if it meant giving up 220 gigs she doesn't use. Your move Seagate.

jizzyburnizzy said:

i think SSD's are great and could have had a much bigger explosion into the market if the cost per gigabyte wasnt so ridiculiously high. I think most enthusiasts will still stick with the SSD just to squeeze out as much power as possible but I'm guessing the retail market will switch to the hybrid.

Zoner1501 Zoner1501 said:

I've really been contemplating a SSD purchase because usually the 1st thing to break down in my system is the mechanical parts of my hard drive, since the hybrids still have moving parts they really don't seem appealing.

rtfmx9 said:

SSD is the only way forward and prices will only go down. Classic HDDs offer more capacity but performance is not acceptable anymore - now that we have the alternative in SSDs. If Seagate doesn't adopt to this they will be left behind by new companies that are smart enough to see the future.

Hargert said:

Have to agree with those saying the pure SSD drives are the way to go. As the prices go down and storage amounts increase this can only end one way. The floopy will go to the same place tape drives and 3.5 inch disks have gone. Also you have the fact that with no moving parts the failure rate on these drives will be much less than disked drives. Give it 3-5 years and we should see these showing up all over the place, not just user devices but in server rooms.

Guest said:

The biggest bottle neck in computer performance (other than the user) has always been the disk. Seagate knows this. The only reason the the CEO says otherwise is because they are releasing a hybrid. To say otherwise would simply put a huge damper on their sales.

Good grief. No one said HDDs are dead now. There is always a transition period. But there is ALWAYS a transition. SSDs are the future. Who knows what will come after that. But something will. And we will have this discussion again, just like when we went from floppies to hdds and when floppies died and the optical drive became the thing. And now that the optical drive is dying, the conversation is not just about SSDs vs HDDs.

Are they dead yet? No, they are still "happyyy, oh so happyyy!'. But they are about to be clobbered on the head. It is the nature of technology. Thank goodness. Otherwise we'd still be using an 8mhz processor with a 720 meg floppy and 640k of ram.


TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

At the moment is kinda a hard call. SSD's are great for laptop's and other portable devices because of the lack of moving parts. Greater speed is always nice, especially with laptops. IDK about other ppls laptops but mine gets shut off all the time, then I want to look something up really quick on the go, and it takes forever to boot. So faster driver would be great there. But at the same time I like to drag around my 15gig music collection and a small collection of ripped DVD's to watch when I'm bored. That east up a small drive very quickly.

So I'm with the ppl that say the hybrid drives are only a temporary fix. Once SSD's become more common and the price per gig goes down, we are going to see a lot more of them.

fritz123 said:

maybe SSD drives hasnt reached acceptance over traditional HDDS yet is because of the price. traditional HDDs are a lot cheaper and is much more common in stores. most users doest really care about these stuff and just go with whatever goes in the package. maybe in a few years prices will drop and SDDs will catch up. SDDs are the future...well for me atleast

Guest said:

Remember the CD Drive? SJ has a connection to the and learn

nismo91 said:

remember this? it's a seagate pocket hard drive. i used to saw them regularly when visiting local computer shops. now? i hardly see any of them, regardless of any brand. more and more mp3 players are also using non-moving flash chips.

solid state solutions are not hardly the future once the price is competitive.

peteyhawkins said:

SSD's are the future, no doubt about it. Price vs performance of LCDs was terrible at first, look how that changed. The same is true of all technology.

Bluray vs DVD is one for that matter that is currently having the battle, but the cost is coming down dramatically already.

Omnislip said:

Looks like the commenting prize worked XD

Cueto_99 said:

Hybrids might have a chance if they had better marketing, right now only seagate promotes them, while ssd are backed by big companies like apple, ocz, kingston and corsair... If luczo wishes to have a chance seagate can't be the only one producing these drives...

bakape said:

As contradictional as it might sound, I could agree with both, as I see SSDs as being ultimately the future, but hybrids could very well become a sort of transition step between rotating and solid mediums. I'm not saying it's that definite, but they could very well turn out as a more appealing alternative for those on a tighter budget, at least for the while of SSDs still being not economical enough to justify the extra cost per GB to the performance boost.

Uvindu said:

I personally would rather go with the hybrid than with a SSD. I honestly haven't really experienced that speed and efficience of a SSD. I use 5400RPM and 7200RPM HDD's at home and they haven't really dissapointed me much. I don't have any complaints about their performance, but I am someone who doesn't really pay attention to the specs of a HDD except for its capacity.

If I were to buy a new HDD, then I would probably buy a hybrid as it provides more space than an SSD at a lower price. It is also much faster than a 7200RPM traditional HDD. I wouldn't mind seeing a decrease in boot times and game loading times, but I won't go and buy a SSD, just so that a game loads faster, or to use the computer 10sec before the normal time. I am quite patient and have a low blood pressure but an empty wallet!

Another thing is that SSD's are based on flash memory. Doesn't flash memory have limited write cycles. It might be less fragile but then again, who on earth will buy an expensive MacBook Air, and then drop it on the floor. That inner sane-ness in you should prevent you from dropping such an expensive and delicate piece of machinery (with all its beautiful white glorry) on the floor!

So basically, I would go with the optin which gives you more storage at a lower price .

whiteandnerdy said:

i would buy a laptop with a SSD just for the speed increase and for the power savings. but for a desktop i want enough room for all my games, movies and pictures (which right now is pushing 500GB) but i dont want to pay a fortune for a SSD that big. So i think jobs is right in saying SSDs are the future but only for the mobile market (laptops and netbooks). for massive storage space at a decent price regular HDD or hybrids are a better choice i think.

kaonis92 said:

Hybrid drives can be a short-term solution until SSD's get cheaper and more reliable. Jobs may be right this time

ViNCiLiCiouS said:

In my opinion, Mr. Jobs enjoys being ambiguous and throws out huge words.

"SSDs are the future."

What does the "future" refer to? Anyone can say "there will be flying cars in the future", and then 1000 years later say, "See? I was right, you guys are all fools for ignoring me in the first place." Actually adding an estimate or quantitative attribute takes a lot more foresight and makes the statement alot more valuable in my eyes.

Back to this hybrid / SSD thing. I don't see SSDs taking over anytime soon. Don't get me wrong, I have an X25-M G2 80GB in my desktop (along with Caviar Blacks and a Spinpoint) and the speed is very, very noticeable. However, there is just no way to store large amounts of data on it.

If you play games / have movies / have a music collection, you are almost forced to purchase a traditional hard drive. You don't need 270MB/s bandwidth to listen to Justin Bieber, but you sure as hell need the space to fit his music videos and promotional art. Same applies to videos (even more so).

Desktop owners have the flexibility to put whatever they want, but most notebooks have 1 HDD bay (some have 2). The ones with SSD netbooks have it even worse. Nearly every laptop user I know owns external HDDs + flash drives for smaller documents.

HDD space continues to be a large factor in "device bragging" among tech-tards (along with amount of RAM, VRAM, and clock speeds... bless their souls) and for good reason. Speed you can deal with by waiting (within reason), but there is no way to add more space other than deleting other things.

TL;DR version-

Jobs is right, but so is anybody with his kind of thinking. Hybrids are the most realistic immediate future. Buy a desktop and profit. Lol at laptop users lugging around power bricks, externals, and USB monitors.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Definitely agree with the maintenance part on an SSD. I just build a new rig where I maintain my OS on the SSD and have a mechanical drive for storage. It seems like I spend at least a few minutes of every day scanning the SSD to get rid of superfluous files.

But as mentioned, this seems to be an OS problem, not an SSD problem. If they can ever get that sorted out and the cost to a manageable level, I don't see mechanical drives lasting more than another decade.

sMILEY4ever said:

I believe SSDs will thrive and not hybrid drives. That's because the more people will buy ssds, the cheaper they will get and the more they are bought, the faster they will get bigger(in capacity) due to research.

roberrt777 said:

I recently read that the current price of an SSD is about $1.20 per Gigabyte an that the price is going to drop to $.50 per Gigabyte this time next year. But I can't remember my source.

Chazz said:

Seagate will go out of business with this mentality. For once steve jobs is right.

tonylukac said:

I don't have an ssd, would like to, but hope to win one here. If Apple thinks they're so advanced, why don't they put a core ix processor, like a core i3, in one of their laptops? Apple taxation without representation.

UT66 said:

More space, cheaper price vs less space, higher price. the choice is clear. Less space and higher price! ( yea super fast, silent, cool, but then again also kinda iffy)

Ay Jay said:

I think Apple isn't wrong its on saying its the future of the notebook, but perhaps not the best idea for the PC. First off, a hybrid drive would be a decent upgrade for all of us who just cant afford a SSD. Second, hybrid drives (in my point of view) are just a step towards full SSD's anyway, but there is a definite need for hybrids because most laptops would really benefit from this. Think about it, to the average consumer, "Hybrid Drive" sounds really cool compared to "Solid State Drive" and me personally, i would rather have a laptop with a moderately priced Hybrid rather than an HDD. So in the near-future, i agree its a mainstream tech but over the long run we're all heading towards SSD's .

polowise1 said:

With all that being said.....One word will explain it all, HYBRID.

Guest said:

Sure, it's not disputable that in the short-term future, hybrids could easily dominate the disk drive sector. However, I don't think Steve Jobs is that shortsighted. He looks much further ahead and sees that SSD will be the storage device for consumer products, particularly notebooks. I don't think Steve Jobs is saying that SSD will be the future for servers and the like. He's very specific in what he's talking about and he's talking about the distant future, not the near future.

Think about it. A lot of technology that Apple came up with were not ones that there was an established market for and yet in a short period of time it created a new market for that product. What comes to mind is the iPod, and then the touch screen phone (iPhone), and now the iPad.

For critics who evaluate Steve Jobs's predictions, I would say before you quickly jump to your conclusions, ask yourself if your critique is about the near future or the distant future. I'm seeing that a lot of critics are shortsighted and only think about the near future.

RebelFlag said:

I like the hybrid drives. I like the speed advantage you get from the SSD part, and the capacity/price ratio that the platter based drive provides. Hybrid drives will be a great alternative until the price of SSD drives comes down in the mainstream market.

Rod2709 said:

Man!! last time i got a Seagate Hard Drive it crashed on me after about 2 month of having it and i lost everything, it was 1.5 TB. Seagate, it just trying to clean up their name with all the messy HDD they have created it, by trying to make something that probably won't go anywhere. They need to learn how to make HDDs before going into Now i don't like Apple PCs nor the idealism and monopoly that they have but i'm with Jobs on that one.

princeton princeton said:

Wow. I despise apple at times but seagate has lost their marbles. Their hybrid drive is far slower than an SSD. Why would the future be something far behind what we have in the present?

Zecias said:

princeton said:

Wow. I despise apple at times but seagate has lost their marbles. Their hybrid drive is far slower than an SSD. Why would the future be something far behind what we have in the present?

seagate isn't completely crazy, but they're looking at this the wrong way. the main turn off of getting a SSD is that they degrade(not sure exactly how this happens but they do) and they generally have less storage capacities for higher costs. eventually technology will reach a point where we have very large files and HDDs will not be fast enough for file storage, at this point, we will use SSDs even if they degrade. Right now, using SSDs in laptops is a pretty good choice. your normal laptops will become outdated within around 5 years, so the degregation of the SSDs doesn't really matter.

SSDs are Light, energy efficient, fast, have low power consumption, quiet, and durable. but they get worse over time, and cost more.

comparing a SSD to a HDD is like comparing a laptop to a desktop, the SSD has what u want and expect in a laptop, so it makes sense to use them in laptops.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Steve is right here, SSD's are the future. However I don't see Apple bringing that future to the masses with the Macbook Air as they already overcharge for there hardware and SSD's will just bring another premium on top of that. But Luczo's comments are pretty baffling, while yes maybe right now SSD's aren't the best options for the average consumer, size and price will come down and offer a better deal down the road. This seems more of an attempt to push forward a product that's already outdated and has limited uses to the average consumer then anything else.

marioestrada said:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Alan Kay

Apple has been predicting the future for a long time (iPod, iPhone, iTunes Store, iPad).

Science Fiction writing predicts & inspires the future, nerds & techies usually invent it and then either get bought up by a big company like Apple or create one. All of those products you listed weren't predicted by Apple, they just took them a step further gave them great marketing and put an i infront of them. Apple however is one of the best in the industry at taking existing ideas making them popular & appeal to the average consumer.

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