Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Ready for a Shortage of Hard Drives?

If you need to buy a hard drive or two, now might be a good time, because there’s probably going to be a shortage soon. The floods in Thailand are disrupting the operations of both of the world’s leading suppliers of hard drives, Seagate Technology and Western Digital.

Western Digital CEO John Coyne warned yesterday on a conference call with analysts that the company expects significant impact to its hard-drive manufacturing operations in that country. It is one of several tech companies that has suspended operations in Thailand amid the worst flooding there in a half century.

Seagate, which reported earnings yesterday, also has operations in Thailand and said those are running at full capacity, but that some of its component suppliers have been affected by the floods.

“Given the severity of the situation and the extensive supply constraints caused by the disruption … the effects on our industry are likely to be substantial and will extend over multiple quarters,” Seagate said in a statement.

With the prospect of an industrywide shortage of hard drives affecting one vendor but not the other, shares of Seagate today shot up by $3.36, or more than 27 percent, to $15.42; Western Digital fell nearly 10 percent yesterday, but recovered today.

I checked in with Fang Zhang, who tracks storage for IHS iSuppli, the research firm that covers the electronics supply chain. While it’s too early yet to know the full impact, her initial estimate says that the worldwide production of hard drives will drop by about 30 percent, from 176 million units projected pre-flood to 125 million drives in the fourth quarter.

Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed the potential for a shortage on Apple’s earnings call with analysts on Tuesday because, naturally, it will affect his ability to turn out Macs this quarter and probably into next year. “I’m virtually certain there will be an overall industry shortage of disk drives as a result of the disaster,” he said.

One question I have is whether this could turn out to be an opportunity for the solid-state storage companies — the main supplier that comes to mind here is Samsung — that are popularizing flash-memory based storage drives in PCs like the MacBook Air and other machines. Will they boost production to fill that gap?

(Image via Consumer Queen.)

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