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SSD future looks bright, revenue expected to more than double in 2013

SSD's future looks bright, as iSuppli says global shipments of solid-state drives are expected to increase due to a new generation of ultrabooks.

Market research firm iSuppli recently reported that global shipments of solid-state drives are expected to more than double this year, thanks to the availability of a new generation of cheaper ultrabooks, which rely on the storage devices.

According to a press release, solid-state drive (SSD) shipments are anticipated to reach 83 million units, up from 39 million units shipped in 2012.

Traditional spinning hard-disk drives (HDDs) used to have the edge on cost and capacity over their solid-state counterparts, particularly HDDs' pennies-per-gigabyte pricing.

But solid-state price-per-gigabyte has reached about one dollar -- seen by some as a "magical" line for adoption -- and some vendors have begun rolling out downright large-capacity solid-state drives, such as STEC Inc.'s 2 TB PCIe SSD, for use as bulk storage. Plus, SSDs in data center applications have the advantage of consuming less electricity than spinning disk.

"As NAND rides out variable cost and scale curves in ever-more efficient manufacturing processes, such things as solid-state PCs, servers and storage arrays become more achievable and attainable. Recent developments around non-volatile memories … also hint at sustained performance improvements for SSDs beyond the drives' current use of NAND flash memory," according to iSuppli.

The firm also noted that the future of SSD is "closely tied" to that of ultrabooks. However, ultrabook sales have historically been sluggish as overall PC sales shrink in the face of the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones for general computing needs.

It was only in October that iSuppli reported that ultrabook sales fell short of expectations -- an estimated 10.3 million were sold in 2012, less than half of the 22 million units analysts originally predicted would be sold.

At the time, iSuppli blamed the $1,000 price tag associated with ultrabooks for lowered sales performance, but noted that manufacturers could rebound if they folded in additional features, included the Windows 8 OS, and brought prices down to the $600-$700 range.

What could help change the future of ultrabooks is Intel. CNN Money reported that the chipmaker called for touchscreens to be included on any device that carries the "ultrabook" name. Intel told the site that it has chips on the way that are designed for touchscreen ultrabooks and that conserve battery life.

CNN Money said the ultrabooks' $1,000 price was a sticking point, but that Intel claimed prices would go down.

"The company predicted that entry-level ultrabooks will retail for $599 by end of the year -- just in time for the 2014 holiday season," CNN Money said.

In an earlier report from October, iSuppli wrote that lower-than-expected ultrabook sales wouldn't "derail" the SSD market.

"And although cache SSDs undershot expectations, traditional SSDs -- including those for the enterprise market -- with their higher prices helped make up the revenue slack. By the second half of this decade, SSDs will be a de facto standard in non-budget notebook and desktop PCs, thanks to a mixture of lower prices, consumer education and an optimized software ecosystem," the market researcher said.

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