Speaking with Boot Camp, Scott Horn, Seagate's vice president of marketing, talked about new trends in the consumer storage market. He identified several key factors that have influenced the way consumers create, store and access their content. Notably, the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices coupled with the growing popularity of social media has created a huge demand for cloud storage. However, more affordable hardware has also led to consumers utilizing their own drives for backup, driving demand for local storage as well.
In response to this trend, Horn noted that Seagate is undertaking several initiatives. This includes working closer with cloud providers in order to help them optimize their offerings. Seagate is also making investments in wireless technology, as, according to Horn, wireless hard drives are the wave of the future. Products such as Seagate Satellite can create ad-hoc wireless networks, allowing users to run up to eight content streams across their network, but this is just one example of how wireless storage technology could provide value to the storage market.
"More and more people are starting to think of their home as a collection of things, so perhaps watching content on a TV – they like that idea," Horn said. "We're also looking at products that help people actually backup within their homes all the devices they have. We've seen… a pretty dramatic increase in number of devices per household. Now, if I use my house, we have something like 10 to 15 devices between PCs for the kids, Kindles sitting around, tablets, phones…that's a lot of stuff. And there's different stuff on all of it."
The impact of solid state drives
Many consumers value the high performance that SSDs can deliver. However, Horn explained that flash, the technology SSD is based on, is fairly expensive compared to hard drive tech. What people really want is the speed of an SSD with the capacity of a hard drive. Seagate's Solid State Hybrid is designed to deliver that balance of high performance and capacity. Horn also said that SSD hybrid drives are a natural choice for high-capacity ultrabooks.
One of the current problems facing consumer storage is the sheer number of drives the average individual has. According to Horn, people rarely get rid of their drives because they want to save all their stored data. That has led to situations in which households don't actually know which information is stored on which drive. In the long term, there will likely be a market for centralized management of multiple drives. In the short term, Seagate is working on a centralized backup solution.
"The interesting thing is that the rate of improvement with the latest technology is slowing. One of the things we are seeing as demand keeps growing – we're working as hard as we can, we have PhDs around the world working on this stuff – we are seeing in the consumer space, we are starting to see the capacity point move from 500 GB to one terabyte," Horn said.
The demand for more capacity is there, as Horn's comments indicate. The demand for both cloud and local storage is likely to continue, creating a new demand for interoperability between both types of solution as consumers move their data in and out of the cloud. In addition, as the total number of consumer devices rises, it will be increasingly important to offer storage services that are platform independent and can unify information across PCs, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices.