The acquisition of Maxtor Corp. by Seagate Technology for approximately $1.9 billion Wednesday is poised to boost Seagates Far East manufacturing capabilities and strengthen its position to dampen expected PC pricing changes in the coming year.
However, industry analysts point out that Seagate will have its hands full completing the technical aspect of the Maxtor merger in late 2006 as it simultaneously transitions to perpendicular recording on many of its devices.
Seagates move to acquire Maxtor in an all-stock transaction will serve to strengthen the hard disk drive makers standing to provide desktop and enterprise drives, while taking some leverage on the desktop away from PC OEMs and moving it back over to Seagate to help solidify its pricing, said Steve Baker, vice president of Industry Analysis for Port Washington, N.Y.-based The NPD Group, Inc.
“[The Maxtor acquisition] probably is going to force companies to not be able to decrease prices as fast,” Baker said.
“I dont think it will be a huge number, but of course theres an awful lot of leverage Dell and HP [Hewlett-Packard Co.] have there, and Seagate has lost a lot of that leverage having gone down from four to three potential desktop suppliers right now.”
Jim Porter, president of DiskTrend Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based storage industry research firm that tracks the disk drive arena, said Seagate has acquired a company in Maxtor that was coming off a string of “unspectacular years.”
For instance, Porter noted that Maxtor had gone through as many as four different chief financial officers in 2004 as well as enduring a host of other management changes.
Still, he envisions Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Seagates CEO Bill Watkins as someone who can successfully leverage Maxtors assets to allow Seagate to reduce the quantities of disk drives they are required to buy from outside the company, in addition to taking advantage of Maxtors manufacturing operations in Southeast Asia to compliment Seagates push into China—although he does expect inevitable consolidation to occur.
“Watkins is an outstanding operations leader in all basics of the industry and [has the ability of] putting the final drives together and agreeing with all the characters what the next steps should be. Im sure hell do a pretty good job of combining the companies. Hes been through industry consolation before, I think he understands what needs to be done,” Porter said.
Seagates purchase of Milpitas, Calif.-based Maxtor comes on the heels of its acquisition of data management and backup vendor Mirra Inc. in September.
Watkins said the company is well versed in acquisitions and chose to envelop Maxtor under its brand to increase Seagates scale and operating efficiency costs.
“Were pretty familiar with the pros and cons of high-tech mergers. Ill be honest: What we dont like about them is when you have to do a lot of integration. A lot of companies get into trouble when they have to rationalize and integrate roadmaps and cultures. If we thought it was something like that, we probably wouldnt have done it,” Watkins said.
“Its really a leveraged deal looking at how we take their revenues and replace their products with our products, our manufacturing, processes, etc.”
In particular, Watkins said Maxtors media manufacturing is one area Seagate will take a close look at integrating into its products.
Armed with projections that the install base of PCs will double in the next five years, Watkins said Seagate will be front and center to capitalize on the growth of notebook computers becoming more mobile, the “surprising” expansion of desktops into new global areas of penetration, and consumers storing content on a host of personal devices but backed up and collected at a central home location.
“Whats happening is people are digitizing their content and moving it and holding it in multiple places, the home and car. Were seeing a lot of storage applications, whether cable or satellite companies with DVR in them, or whether its people applying handheld devices, iPod or MP3, when theyre in use theres strong content, and they want to back it up at the desktop in the home. All those storage solutions are hard drives,” Watson said.
Maxtor has been active in building 3.5-inch drives used for living room and television applications. The company has not been a significant player in growing mobile areas.
A major test for Seagate will be its approach to balance to complete the exhaustive physical consolidation of Maxtor in the second half of 2006 while being faced with the beginning of a very large transition to perpendicular recording—in favor of existing longitudal—technology going onto its hard disk drive offerings.
The cause and effect will entail a massive impact on manufacturing status lines of Seagate as a company, as well as head and disks production.
“The [disk drive] industry is running out of gas in longitudal disk drives, [vendors] cant take it much further in improvement. Perpendicular uses fewer heads and disks as you go up in recording density,” or aerial density, Porter said.
He said that the transition to perpendicular recording should come around 2007 on 2.5-inch disk drives for PC notebooks.
Over the last few years longitudal disk drives most frequently used in desktops were 40GB, or one head on one side of a disk.
For an 80GB drive, two heads were used. In 2006 and beyond, Porter predicts a transition to the desktop using one head for 80GB and two heads for 160GB, thereby doubling capacity on the desktop disk drive via aerial density improvement.