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Thunderbolt drive shipments surge, but USB still reigns

Lucas Mearian | Aug. 20, 2013
Hard drive sales are back to normal two years after Thailand floods.

Thunderbolt will definitely continue to grow, Conner continued, but more as a replacement for Firewire/1394 and eSATA, not as a replacement to USB.

The speed of Thunderbolt is definitely sought by media professionals and other niche users who really need top-level performance, Connor said. But USB 3.0's speed continues to be "good enough" for most users. That, plus the fact that USB 3.0 is backwards compatible, makes it significantly cheaper than Thunderbolt.

At the same time, the worldwide market for personal and entry-level storage hardware saw double-digit growth in the second quarter of 2013. The market includes storage products that range from a single disk through twelve-drive bay storage arrays marketed for individuals, small offices/home offices, and small businesses.

The worldwide market grew 10.7% year over year with 16.8 million units (worth $1.5 billion) shipped in the second quarter, according to IDC's PELS tracker.

It was the third consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth, according to IDC.

"The second quarter of 2013 brought ... a return to normal for the personal and entry-level storage market," Conner said. "For the last four quarters, the PELS market has seen a distinct focus on recovery after Thailand floods."

Drive maker Western Digital was hardest hit by the flooding, with up to 75% of the company's production lines temporarily shut down by the floods, IDC said.

By the beginning of 2012, disk drive production began to recover, but prices remained inflated because of shortages. According to ecommerce tracking site Dynamite Data, the top 50 hard drives on sites such as and saw prices jump by 50% to 150%. The price hikes kicked off in October 2011, when inventory levels plummeted 90% in less than a week.

Users continue to migrate to higher capacities to meet growing storage needs. In the 3.5-in personal storage market, 2TB drives represented 51.9% of shipments in the quarter.

For the 2.5-in personal storage market, 1TB drives had 51.7% of the market, with 4TB devices comprising 28.6% of units shipped.


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