back to article Will the PC glory days ever return, WD asks as its finances slip

Are the glory days gone for good? Will the PC market ever come back? AS WD rues the damage that declining PC disk sales have done to its revenues, that’s a question that will be exercising its product strategists as they ponder its latest results. Revenues for its fourth fiscal 2015 quarter were 14 per cent down from a year …

  1. Lee D Silver badge

    Stop making spinning rust.

    Where are your SSD's?

    Because the answer "We don't sell those" isn't going to be acceptable in a year's time. I can pick up 1Tb SSD's for in-my-budget range. Soon they will be in-the-mainstream pricing. And then WD etc. are dead in the water unless they can catch up with Samsung and Intel.

    The fact that "WD" and "SSD" on Google only pick up a hybrid thing reads like Kodak and Polaroid's early (actually late-to-the-game) digital cameras to me. The "Let's stick our heads in the sand and pretend that's not happening" business model.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Spinning rust has precisely one advantage over SSD - it's cheaper.

      They are betting the company on being able to continue making mechanical parts smaller and cheaper each year faster than semiconductors can make parts smaller and cheaper each year.

      Goodbye WD

      1. Jim O'Reilly

        Density play only

        There's no room to remove cost from a drive. We are not going to see any major component disappear form the parts list. The only play for the drive makers is density, but here they are slowing down as the technical barriers for each step get greater.

        Hard drives can't get faster, and they are already way slow compared with SSD. Add to that, SSD are lower power, silent and robust.

        The demise of the hard drive is inevitable, just as PCs will be replaced by mobiles and tablets. It's happening faster than WD or Seagate would like.

        1. Vector

          Re: Density play only

          Spinning rust does have the reliability edge still, but if this new technology from Intel/Micron lives up to the hype, then that goes out the door too once the technology scales and the price falls (as is inevitable).

          Personally, I just don't see an uptick in consumer desktop sales left. With "good enough" laptops in the $300-$400 range, there's just not that much impetus left to get a desktop system. They're probably about to be relegated to the enterprise desktop until mobile devices become flexible enough to make that pointless as well.

          1. Charles 9

            Re: Density play only

            There's also the consideration of bulk storage. Flash and post-Flash tech has the speed advantage, and in terms of reliability it varies somewhat, but when speed is less important than sheer capacity, spinning rust still wins. Especially as the size of the average "thing" continues to grow.

            As for the PC itself, I expect it to shrink and niche but not disappear altogether. Workstations will always be needed to produce content, plus there are plenty of enthusiasts and amateurs who will need its versatility and/or raw localized power (media authoring and gaming are two big examples).

            1. Jim O'Reilly

              Re: Density play only

              I think the workstations argument is wrong. Even with the pitifully slow Internet that US Telcos provide, it's a wash to use a cloud-based compute cluster for a job and just have a display on a tablet...there are many articles on that issue - just google Adobe!.

              With faster Internet, the balance swings in favor of using cloud clusters instead of workstations, especially as that solves collaboration and parallel working on a job.

              Even the gamers are going to the cloud for that reason!

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Density play only

                "I think the workstations argument is wrong. Even with the pitifully slow Internet that US Telcos provide, it's a wash to use a cloud-based compute cluster for a job and just have a display on a tablet...there are many articles on that issue - just google Adobe!.

                With faster Internet, the balance swings in favor of using cloud clusters instead of workstations, especially as that solves collaboration and parallel working on a job."

                For many tasks, security and/or confidentiality is important, so off-site computing is out of the question. If there is an on-site cloud or server cluster for the purpose, then thin clients may be useful for the purpose. But sometimes the workload is highly specialized and restricted to a narrow segment of the business, meaning it makes less sense to generalize. Especially if custom or specialist hardware is being employed for the job. Video editing, for example, may require a workstation with specialized bus connections or device readers to transfer footage from cameras. A modeling station may need to make use of a 3D Mouse and high-performance graphics (professional graphics cards tend to be distinct from server GPGPU chips meant mainly for HPC). The more specialized the tools needed for the job, the more likely a dedicated workstation built for these particular needs will be needed, and as long as these needs exist, then PCs will always have a niche.

                "Even the gamers are going to the cloud for that reason!"

                If gamers are going to the cloud, what happened to OnLive? Lag is a killer in gaming, especially twitch gaming like FPS's. No, when it comes to serious gaming, local power is essential, so gaming PCs will continue to exist.

          2. Jim O'Reilly

            Re: Density play only

            If you look at the numbers, you'd question that reliability statement. The facts support SSD as being reliable, while HDD show high early life failures and also batch-related or model-related failure.

            Now SSD do wear out, but a bit of care in getting the right class SSD to match your write rates will give 8 years useful life, if you need that much.

            Any hard drive over 8 years old is wearing out fast, too. In fact failure rates seem to increase after 4 to 6 years of operation and then rise rapidly after a couple more years. IT's a wash on wearout, and late this year we'll see improvements in error-correction in SSD that will increase wear life by as much as 100x. That will put SSD well in front of HDD on reliability!

  2. Mikel
    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A: No

      Assuming that's your answer to the question: "Will the PC market ever come back?" then I entirely agree.

      I would say that the "PC glory days" started with W95, but as I started to have to install and support it I rapidly came to the conclusion that what both home and even most business PC users needed was an appliance, not a PC.

      This is because business and home PC users are only concerned with the applications they need to run; the only real impact/influence of the underlying OS to the vast majority of PC users is how the application 'looks' on the screen.

      To use a motoring analogy, it's like the difference between having the skills and knowledge to do your own servicing and repairs, as opposed to getting your dealership/local mechanic to do it all; owning a PC, for most people these days, is like having to be your own automobile mechanic.

  3. Jim O'Reilly

    Sales of 15K drives increased??

    There must be some real dinosaurs out there. Who in their right mind would buy 15K drives? They are 2x the price of top-end SSD and 1000x slower in random IO, which is their only reason for existence.

    There are still people who would opt for a KIA even if a Ferrari were the same price!

    Barnum was right!

    1. TWB

      KIA vs Ferrari

      Ferrari don't make any hatchbacks or what I consider practical cars, but otherwise I know what you mean.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sales of 15K drives increased??

      What about capacity for the same price? Would two of these top-end SSDs equal the same capacity of the 15K drive? What about space constraints meaning it has to be a big single-unit device?

  4. Christian Berger

    Well, it depends

    The problem is that the future of PCs is most likely not with Windows. Microsoft has to care about their bottom line and that means chasing the money. They see that there's probably a _billion_ more Android than Windows devices, so they want to be like Android.

    Those people will also use cloud services to store their data.

    The people who actually care about their data as well as their freedom have long switched over to some sort of FOSS. They probably now have their Linux and will move to *BSD.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: They probably now have their Linux and will move to *BSD

      No they don't. The people who care about their data are the ones burning it on optical disks. The clueless are the ones putting it on an external spinning rust drive and find out the hard way that after a while, their drive (and data) is dead.

      Linux ? Please.

      And cloud services to store their data ? Are_ you _ mad, or just _ totally _ off _ your _ rocker ?

      1. Charles 9

        Re: They probably now have their Linux and will move to *BSD

        You can say the same thing about optical discs. Many aren't designed to last more than a few years. Trust me, I speak from experience. I copied all my opticals to external hard drives and still lost some of the data to optical bit rot. Yes, I know spinning rust can break, which is why I keep two copies of the data (the second on a different lot from the first) and rotate them periodically. The odds of a simultaneous double failure are extremely low. I also use parity archiving as a guard against gradual failure (raising the odds of reconstructing badly-read or -copied data).

        1. CAPS LOCK

          Re: They probably now have their Linux and will move to *BSD

          ZFS mirror is your friend. For the lazy and hopeless Nas4Free takes care of the details.

          1. Charles 9

            Re: They probably now have their Linux and will move to *BSD

            An isolated Windows machine precludes both ZFS and NAS4Free. Besides, in such a setup, doing it my way doesn't involve too much fiddling (I use FastCopy to to the bulk copying work) and has the added benefit of immediate access when they're needed without having to use a network.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    flash is great, but spinning rust is not going away soon

    Flash is great for your average home use now, which is why numbers on HDD sales are going down.

    WD has flash products (mostly under the HGST side), just not many consumer flash products.

    HDD still has flash beat on the capacity side. Your average near line storage will stay HDD For a while. There is not enough foundry capacity in the world to even consider all storage going flash any time soon.

    WD has a declining market (hdd), but not a market that is going away over night. There is a huge diff in riding the downslope while working on other products and throwing up your hands and walking away from a profitable line of business.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It pisses me off that it's getting hard to find VPS hosting with HDD storage. SSDs are too small and expensive (and unnecessarily fast) for big audio/video/images. And we've seen a number SSD reliability issues reported this year, now that everyone's using them.

    FWIW, I'm running SSD+HDD in my Linux->BSD desktops, and plain old HDD in my Win8 beater laptop. Good enough.

    And if XPoint/RRAM/etc lives up to half the hype, I'll take XPoint+HDD over SSD any day.


    While HDD is cheaper per TB than SDD there's a place for it.

    It's not as if the amount of data is getting smaller.

  8. Little Mouse

    "Are the glory days gone for good?"

    The "Glory Days" of IT, when only nerds and gamers had PCs?

    Sounds like we're headed right back in that direction. Helloooo 1992!

  9. BaronMatrix

    It's Intel's fault for commoditizing CPUs and cheating to keep AMD out of the market... To go from 80% of US retail to nearly nothing means lots of people aren't even looking... And the OEMs don't help selling 200 different Core i whatevers...

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