If industry analyst IHS iSuppli is correct, a trend is building in the desktop PC world that has manufacturers moving from faster standard 3.5-inch hard drives to smaller, more power-efficient 2.5-inch units.
The El Segundo, Calif.-based consultancy said in a media brief April 13 that global shipments of 2.5-inch hard-disk drives (HDDs) to all-in-one PCs are forecast to reach approximately 1 million units in 2013, up from zero this year.
Shipments--mostly from the Far East countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan--then will increase to 3 million units the following year and rise steadily until they hit some 7 million units in 2016, IHS iSuppli said.
Western Digital of Santa Ana, Calif., is the world's No. 1-selling HDD producer, with 40 percent of the global market. Seagate Technology is right behind with about 37 percent. Both companies have most of their HDDs made in Southeast Asia.
Now Used in Laptops, Servers, Storage
At this point, 2.5-inch HDDs are used mostly in laptop PCs and data center storage arrays and servers. Their history has shown not only lower power consumption but also better longevity.
"With a maximum capacity of 1 terabyte, 2.5-inch HDDs are proving very attractive to PC makers for use in their next-generation all-in-one designs," said Fang Zhang, analyst for storage systems at IHS. "Multiple all-in-one PCs have the potential to adopt 2.5-inch HDDs, including the iMac from Apple Inc., TouchSmart from Hewlett-Packard, Series 7 from Samsung Electronics, IdeaCentre from Lenovo, Top Touchscreen from Asus Eee and all-in-one desktops from Vizio and Acer."
These new all-in-one desktop PCs are superior in performance and features to conventional machines, thanks to recent advances in multi-core microprocessors and the thinner HDD size. As such, all-in-one desktop PCs can extend the markets for 2.5-inch HDDs, iSuppli said.
Most 2.5-inch drives typically run at 5,400 rpm, compared with 7,200 rpm for the 3.5-inch. The 2.5-inch also sells at slightly higher prices than the 3.5-inch as a whole, although the gap in price can be narrowed if 2.5-inch volumes become significant, iSuppli said.
The HDD industry was hit hard last year by heavy monsoon-created flooding in Southeast Asia that put a major crimp in production. Some manufacturing facilities in Thailand and Vietnam that had been literally under water last fall are just now coming back online. Full-scale production is expected to resume by this coming fall, industry sources have reported.
Chris Preimesberger is Editor for Features and Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz