Seagate ships its billionth hard drive, promises 2 B in five years

In just under 30 years, Seagate has become the first manufacturer to ship one billion hard drives, and it expects to double that number within the next five.

In recent years, worldwide shipments of hard drives has soared -- a statistic that's not surprising considering the advent of portable digital media players and rising demand for laptops, which are typically replaced much sooner than traditional desktop PCs, as well as online data storage.

According to research firm Gartner, 500 million hard drives were shipped last year, which represented a 15.3% increase over 2006. By comparison, in 1990, hard drive manufacturers shipped less than 30 million units in total.

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Seagate shipped its first drive in 1979 -- the ST506 that could store just 5 MB of data. According to the company, it weighted 5 pounds and cost a whopping $1,500. Since that time, Seagate has shipped the equivalent of 79 million terabytes of storage space. Current desktop computer drives boast capacities of 1 terabyte, while laptop drives have reached the 500 GB mark.

The company says it plans to ship its two billionth hard drive in less than five years. However, growth in the industry has slowed quite a bit. IDC projects demand for hard drives to remain around 500 million units per year, only topping 600 million in 2010.

Seagate has posted a video to celebrate the milestone, which recounts the company's history from its creation behind a convenience store when it was known as "Shugart Technology."


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3:55 pm EDT April 22, 2008 - One billion drives already? From one company? Can this be accurate?

BetaNews ran the results of Gartner's findings this afternoon against the findings of one of its key competitors, iSuppli. Senior Storage Analyst Krishna Chander told us this afternoon that, believe it or not, given the incredible rise in applications for hard drives in devices besides PCs (read: "MP3"), that one billion number was probably eclipsed when Seagate said it was, if not before.

Last year, about 516 million hard drives were shipped worldwide by all manufacturers, according to iSuppli -- a few more than Gartner's saying. Of that number, Seagate has a one-third market share, for roughly 170 million units shipped last year alone. Ten years ago, when just shy of 90 million units were shipped by all manufacturers combines, by iSuppli's estimate, Seagate had a 22% market share, according to Chander.

But even at that scale, it's easy to see how the numbers add up. In fact, using our mathematical model, at the rate it's rising now, Seagate wouldn't have to have been founded back in 1979; it could have waited until 1992 to arrive on the scene, and probably still made number one billion this year.

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