Over at Forbes, Seagate Technology Chief Executive William Watkins talks about the future of disk drive capacities and pricing. The money quote:

My best guess is that you will get a 40 gigabyte drive in 2010 for $80 on flash. I think the same device in a one-inch hard drive will cost you $40 to $50. In a 2.5-inch drive for $50, I suspect you can get 400 gigabytes. I don’t see flash being competitive at 40 gigabytes. But I won’t be able to do a 20 gigabyte for much cheaper than [the 40 gigabyte drive], while they will be able to do 10 gigs for $40. Anything below 20 gigabytes, they will own.

. . . Our sense, especially with application sets that want to do a lot of streaming video, is that the minimum requirement will be 50 gigs with a more likely minimum at 100 gigs.

A Close Reading of the Tea Leaves
What is interesting here, four years in the future?

  • Flash at $2/GB, 1″ hard drive at $1/GB
  • 2.5″ drive at $0.12/GB
  • The applications he’s talking about aren’t laptops, which are close to those capacities today, but media players.

Dream On, Mr. Watkins
Flash prices today are only 2.5% of 2001’s prices. Since flash prices are driven by semiconductor technology, primarily larger wafers and smaller features, that trend will continue. So today’s $20/GB flash drive will be a $0.50/GB drive in early 2011.

Assuming Mr. Watkins is correct about hard drives, late 2010 will look like this:

  • A 200GB 2.5″ drive will about $40 (applying his reasoning about 1″ drives)
  • A 100GB flash drive will be about $50
  • Ergo, flash will own everything under 100GB

Remember, you heard it here first. And please, dissenting opinions welcomed.