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Hard disk drive (HDD) technology is nearly 60 years old. In that time, dozens of HDD manufacturers have risen to prominence and faded into oblivion.

This is a typical market trajectory for technology products. It starts with massive entry, which in the case of spinning hard drives, was sparked in the mid- to late-70s with the PC boom. By around 1990, new entry became rare, and fringe manufacturers exited mostly through bankruptcy and liquidation—this is called the shakeout phase. By about 2000, the remaining handful of companies started merging with each other, a consolidation period that would last another decade.

Today are three major players left in the HDD manufacturing game: WD, Seagate, and Toshiba.

Tracing the history of hard drives through the three remaining players paints an interesting enough picture. What about the future of hard drives? As markets for flash and other types of data storage technology continue to mature, some analysts predict the demand for spinning drives to wane.  Others note that HDD technology is far from stagnant—each year manufacturers increase capacity, performance and stability in new drives.

There is no sign of any new disruptive technology to usurp the flash/hard disk grip on data storage. The current market, marked by low margin and high competition, discourages heavy R&D spending on alternate means of storing data. There really is no business reason for a newcomer to enter in the data storage market.

Current market trends also indicate spinning media has a least a few more years staying power. Bulk data storage done in public clouds and on-premise data centers will continue to utilize HDD technology.  Popularity is booming for NAS arrays among consumers and SMBs, and specialized NAS hard drives are the media of choice here as well.

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[Infographic] Hard Drive Manufacturer Genealogy, design by Dana Choi

[Infographic] Hard Drive Manufacturer Genealogy
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[Infographic] Hard Drive Manufacturer Genealogy
Hard drive technology is 60 years old. Dozens of HDD manufacturers have risen to prominence and faded into oblivion since then. Today only three remain.
Adam Lovinus

Author Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

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