Hard Drives: Where Performance Still Counts

We don't need it, but we're on the verge of a hard drive performance war.

Not that we need it, but we are about to enter another performance war.

Certainly this should come as no surprise. Weve had platform fights, processor fights, graphics fights and even memory fights (remember Rambus?), so another active battle shouldnt even give us pause. But whether or not we are ready, we are about to re-enter the performance fight for hard drives. The contenders are Hitachi Ltd., which recently purchased IBMs drive business, and Western Digital Corp.

I drove by the old IBM storage facility where I used to work and had to admit it was really strange to see the Hitachi name on the security gate. Remembering a few decades ago how we were all convinced that a Japanese company was going to take IBM out after the IBM consent decree with the U.S. government, this was kind of a creepy déjà-vu feeling.

Still, Hitachi has entered the hard drive market with a vengeance. Its initial price drop on the old Micro Drive, which had been languishing under IBMs care, created Apple Computer Inc.s new Mini-iPod and helped Apple make a big splash in what otherwise would have been a dull month for that segment. Hitachi has been cutting prices across most of the lines and has been taking the fight to Maxtor Corp., which, up until recently, owned the value segment for drives. Not satisfied with this, the company now appears to be planning to go after the performance segment currently owned by Western Digital.

Next page: Why Western Digital drives are so fast.