Rumor: Big SSD vendors squeezing out smaller fish

The solid-state drive market is a harsh, unforgiving place for smaller vendors. Or, at least, would one think so after reading DigiTimes’ latest piece. The site has gleaned from Taiwanese “industry sources” that major SSD vendors are trying to squeeze out smaller competitors by slashing prices.

Why might they do that, you ask? DigiTimes suggests an interesting justification:

A number of channel retailers, which usually sell commodity memory products including flash drives and memory cards, recently began to offer SSDs . . . Some of the leading SSD producers are concerned about inferior products that might disrupt development of the market, and therefore have resorted to price-cutting measures to force the retailers to leave the market.

The site claims those “leading SSD producers” include Crucial, Kingston, Intel, and OCZ. It doesn’t say which smaller players might be the victims of attrition, but there’s no denying that plenty of less notable firms are offering SSDs these days—firms like, say, Patriot and Verbatim.

Competition can be a cruel thing. If it leaves us with more consistent quality and lower prices, then so be it, I suppose… unless, of course, prices suddenly climb back up once those smaller companies yield. At least prices are also being driven down by continued progress. In the same piece, DigiTimes notes that the price gap between 3Gbps and 6Gbps SATA drives will narrow this year, and 128GB and 256GB drives will supplant 32GB and 64GB offerings in the “mainstream.”

Comments closed
    • ImSpartacus
    • 7 years ago

    Did someone say SSD price cuts?

    • Kougar
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<] If it leaves us with more consistent quality and lower prices, then so be it, I suppose...[/quote<] Oh, so I suppose the ongoing episode with newer Vertex 2 units sold at Newegg DOA or dying after a few months is a shining example of high quality then? Not to be sarcastic, but when around 40% of just the [b<]confirmed[/b<] buyers report their V2's dying, even replacements of replacements dying or DOA, and watching new buyers reporting the same problem day after day something is clearly wrong. It isn't pretty and that OCZ has made the choice to continue selling these SSDs is a pretty large negative to their reputation in my personal opinion. I took just a sample size of 50 reviews, counted only confirmed purchases, and counted only the single review once regardless of how many DOA or dead RMA's they mentioned... to have even one third of buyers have one V2 fail is appallingly high. Whatever happened, first year Vertex 2 owners came out fine, but either the change of NAND or something else has resulted in complete unreliability of the drives. Add both OEM and kit SKUs together and there are 1,300 user reviews to read through, and more by the day.

    • C-A_99
    • 7 years ago

    I got an SSD a few months back, and despite the pricing issues and rapid depreciation, I’m never looking. Next desktop or laptop I get, I’ll definitely put an SSD on without question. The overall performance simply destroys that of the HDD’s before you even look at any benchmarks; tasks switch faster, programs load sooner, and your computer is ready to go immediately after its short boot time is completed and you log onto Windows; you don’t have to wait minutes for your HDD to do what it has to do to get everything working up to speed, so saying that SSD’s don’t benefit non-multitasking users is not a very convincing argument against them at all. Improvements to performance that can’t be achieved by any other hardware (due to the HDD bottlenecking it) include hibernating, installing/uninstalling/file transfers, loading to and from the page file when the RAM limit is hit (though this is less of an issue these days), and just about anything else that involves storage. Plus, just having an extra drive saves a lot of overhead on the HDD. Using the SSD+HDD combination with the OS on the SSD performs better and costs slightly less than having to get RAID setup. (Though the hassle seems to be about the same.)

    • squeeb
    • 7 years ago

    I hope that doesn’t mean Mushkin. I love my Mushkin.

    • bcronce
    • 7 years ago

    Just wait for Memresistor drives next year. Per square chip area, they hold 6x more data than flash for a given transistor size.

      • rrr
      • 7 years ago

      Wishful thinking that they will be available next year… not at reasonable prices anyway. I expect, even if first drives based on that technology WILL be created next year, it will be another 5+ years before they will be priced so many can afford them. In the meantime, comments sections for each article/news for such drives will be filled with more price complaints by some people feeling particularily entitled.

        • bcronce
        • 7 years ago

        While I do agree that what I said was a bit optimistic, especially with this economy, but the general trend for tech is shorter and shorter times until affordable.

        Just look at VHS->DVD->BluRay, B&W TV->Color TV-> High-def TV, Punch-cards->Tape->Mechanical->SSD…etc etc…

        Heck, SSDs went from ~$2k for 1GB to $280 for 256GB in the past 6 years. Most of that are die shrinking and controller tech because wear leveling is complicated. Memresistors will be coming out several times denser plus much smaller transistors than what SSDs started on, plus no super complicated wear leveling.

        The 3 big manufacturers of Memresistors, Samsung, Hynix, IBM(I think?), plan to have the first SSD storage device being mass-produced in 2013 and DDR3 memory sticks in 2014. They’re targeting the memory for cheap devices like laptops and ultrabooks/etc.

        Based on their confidence of steam-rolling consumer affordable devices, I have a feeling there will be cheap high density SSDs/Memory in 1-2 years after initial release.

    • PrincipalSkinner
    • 7 years ago

    This is to be expected. You can’t have Intel (which has it’s own flash, firmware and had a controller) and Adata (which relies for all parts on their respective manufacturers) competing in the same market for long.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    If, after crushing the competition with low prices they then “artificially raise prices”, it becomes (by legal definition) a cartel.

    Memory manufacturers have been penalised for this before and I doubt they want to feel the financial sting again.

    • Forge
    • 7 years ago

    I’m just about to finally bite the bullet. I migrated my Steam folder off my 300GB Raptor over the last year or two, and SSDs are finally hitting the size/speed/price convergence that I can be happy with. I’ll probably be grabbing the Samsung 830 256GB next time there’s any kind of real sale at Newegg.

    I’ve decided to get a Lenovo X220, and that’ll take one, if I like it there, I’ll probably get the same drive for my desktop as well.

    I’m actually considering doing some NTFS junction tomfoolery, to get the SSD as the disk root, and mounting my 1TB Black as C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam or something similar.

      • Airmantharp
      • 7 years ago

      I almost feel sorry for ‘trailing-edge’ adopters that are missing out on SSD performance, but after having a Vertex 2 die on me, I’m much more amendable to your concerns :).

      But with respect to using the SSD as a primary drive and a mechanical drive as a secondary, you’re right on the mark- I do this in my desktop and my laptop with Intel 320’s.

      Mostly, I install the OS, Office suite, other productivity software and small communications and utility applications to the SSD, and then put my Steam and Origin directories on the mechanical drive. This works well, even with the mechanical drive on my laptop being in an external USB3 enclosure.

      For file repositories such as pictures, movies, and music, I just use Windows 7s built in remapping tool for the Libraries. For games that benefit from an SSD, in my case BF3 and SW:TOR, I use a directory junction to keep the install directory on the SSD; Steam and Origin work seamlessly with this.

        • Forge
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, I think this is the first major change in the PC market where I haven’t led the charge into new territory, or at least been in the first wave. With the very first wave of SSDs, they were just too friggin SMALL, and I couldn’t bear to radically reconfigure my OS install patterns to accommodate. With subsequent generations, I’ve been watching the… What did Krogoth call them? Stop-going errors? I’ve seen each generation of SSDs have at least one model have a critical flaw. In particular, many would eat their own firmware and self-brick, and I particularly loved the Intel SSD that would suddenly decide it was 8MB and stay there till you fully wiped the disk. Intel was all “You do have backups, right?”.

        Things seem quiet this generation. I’m willing to make a run at it. I just can’t think about it too much.

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    G SKILL, Mushkin, GeIL, ADATA, PNY, Transcend, and Wintec all need to add to the pile. The more, the merrier…for me. Dont expect anything from HDD…Seagate will eventually be the only HDD maker and capitalize on mechanical drives then hike up prices accordingly until they go out of business.

      • spigzone
      • 7 years ago

      Heh, Samsung manufactures it’s own chips and contoller. Sandisk manufactures it’s own memory chips.

    • tfp
    • 7 years ago

    So odd I didn’t know things like this happened in the business world.

    • burntham77
    • 7 years ago

    I hope the smaller companies stick around. I bought a 240 gig SSD from AData over Christmas for a reasonable 300 dollars. It’s not the fastest SSD out there, but at that price it was the best value at the time, and it’s a Sata III drive. I am actually considering selling it and getting a 500 gig SSD from the same company just so I won’t need to have a mechanical drive in my system anymore.

    I like having AData as an option.

      • Corrado
      • 7 years ago

      My “microcenter” branded drive is actually an AData drive. No complaints.

    • mattthemuppet
    • 7 years ago

    “Some of the leading SSD producers are concerned about inferior products that might disrupt development of the market”

    I very much doubt that. The main reason for forcing other companies out of business by slashing prices is to reduce competition. Reduced competition almost always results in either higher prices or reduced innovation – I’m betting that the big SSD makers are hoping for the former.

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 7 years ago

      yeah their strategy will drive them out for a bit then when prices go back up they will return.

    • Corrado
    • 7 years ago

    They’re all the same damned drives anyways. Just like most video cards are just reference boards with a fancy sticker on them, so are the SSDs. If anything, I tend to avoid small companies in Taiwan anyway because of support issues if something goes wrong, unless the price is DRASTICALLY lower.

      • ludi
      • 7 years ago

      Yeah, I don’t get why people immediately jump to conspiracy and collusion when reading an article like this. Every industry in the PC business has followed this trend — starts out with lots of vendors offering a range of competing products, some of which are good and some of which are garbage, then the smaller ones gradually crash and burn as the product reaches commodity status, leaving behind a small handful of much larger vendors.

      It happened first in silicon suppliers — CPUs, then core logic chipset vendors, then in peripheral hardware chip vendors (LAN, sound, graphics), and finally in raw memory and flash memory silicon. Ditto for the value adders — first in non-GPU peripehral card suppliers, then motherboard suppliers, then graphics card suppliers. Same for assembled PCs; there used to be a couple dozen offerings, now there are more like 4-5. Even power supplies used to be designed and manufactured by a diverse range of companies, now (excluding the lowest-end Chinese knockoffs) there are really only 3 or 4 reliable products on the market, although some wear more than one vendor’s label.

      Hard drives have been converging in that direction for years, and SSDs will be next.

        • dpaus
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]Yeah, I don't get why people immediately jump to conspiracy and collusion when reading an article like this. Every industry in the PC business has followed this trend -- starts out with lots of vendors offering a range of competing products, some of which are good and some of which are garbage, then the smaller ones gradually crash and burn as the product reaches commodity status, leaving behind a small handful of much larger vendors[/quote<] Not quite; the larger vendors - those who can achieve the economies of scale - survive as the low-cost providers, and some smaller vendors - typically those with some proprietary technology and/or market knowledge - survive as special-purpose 'boutique' vendors. But that is what happens when the market evolves based on supply-and-demand, good/bad marketing, sales and customer service. It's [b<][u<]not[/b<][/u<] what happens when a group of vendors jointly say 'we're going to.... [quote<]resort... to price-cutting measures to [b<]force the retailers to leave the market.[/b<][/quote<]' [u<]That[/u<] is what I called 'collusion, pure and simple' - and I stand by that call (assuming, of course, that what DigiTimes reported is accurate, which, I agree, is a whole other discussion.....)

    • mcnabney
    • 7 years ago

    Needs to be under 50 cents/GB for me to even consider an SSD.

      • Elsoze
      • 7 years ago

      Funny how this pops up shortly after the vaunted “Needs to be $1/GB for me to even consider an SSD” argument becomes moot.

      Let’s all take a deep breath and admit that some of us are willing to spend money on actual performance and some are just cheap. Nothing wrong with that really, but I have always found it interesting that some people will replace their entire PC at great cost but will go cheap on the single slowest component of their build. Bizarre really.

        • Corrado
        • 7 years ago

        Its the same with LOTS of things, but I thought the same thing. The argument was $1/GB. Now that its $1/GB the goal posts move. Nerds LOVE to move the goalposts to justify their opinions on things.

        • burntham77
        • 7 years ago

        I work with a guy who will drop 2000 dollars on a new build on a whim… but won’t pony up 50 bucks for a game and instead just pirates it. And really, with Steam sales, you almost never have to pay full price for a game these days.

        • ew
        • 7 years ago

        Everybody has their own price point. That’s kind of how the demand part of supply and demand works.

        For me, I can’t justify paying more than $200 no matter how fast or big the drive is. Just not worth spending more on such a rapidly depreciating item. I also would need to have >200GB in order to replace my desktop drive. I’m not willing to spend time juggling data between an SSD and a HDD (already have a NAS for large files).

        TLDR, I’m personally waiting for <=$200 and >=200GB. Hopefully this holiday! 🙂

        • superjawes
        • 7 years ago

        Replacing your hard drive can make a difference…but not nearly the difference that other components do.

        Especially now that the next major performance jump is to a new technology, finding a sweet spot where a SSD meets your storage needs and price range is going to float a bit. On top, that 35GB requirement for Max Payne was JUST posted, and that–at least theoretically–will affect someone’s decision on whether or not to spend the money for a faster drive over a higher capacity one.

        • Vaughn
        • 7 years ago

        I agree with your post.

        It comes down to your usages pattern more than anything else if you are considering an SSD.
        If you are a single click user as in you open one program work in it then close it and move on to something else and SSD is not for u. Anyone that actually multitask or put any kind of I/O load on their system knows the benefit an SSD will provide. You don’t have to sell them on it !!

        So when you figure out which kind of user you are then you should determine if its worth it for you.

        Those of you waiting for a 10c/GB ratio are just cheap mofo’s just admit it and be honest everyone can already see that so no point trying to hide it.

      • Firestarter
      • 7 years ago

      This is what several orders of magnitude look like:
      [url<]https://techreport.com/r.x/wd-velociraptor-1tb/hdtune-access-read-4kb.gif[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/r.x/wd-velociraptor-1tb/hdtune-access-read-1mb.gif[/url<] I'm tempted to expres this in terms of distance to the moon or driving your car around the world, but I worry I would be insulting your intelligence.

        • indeego
        • 7 years ago

        You picked the most useless bench. Access times are great for specs, but real-world Multi I/O are where it’s at.

        [url<]https://techreport.com/r.x/ocz-vertex4/db-overall.gif[/url<] or how little a percentage the cost of an SSD is to a total system: [url<]https://techreport.com/r.x/ocz-vertex4/value-scatter-system.gif[/url<] Also you can always pull in a legacy mechanical from old systems. Legacy Storage always follows me around...

          • Firestarter
          • 7 years ago

          Did I? I’d say it’s pretty relevant, as it seems to track pretty well with the trace-based benchmark that you link to. Granted, the difference is less pronounced (‘only’ 5 to 8 times as fast), but it still shows how improving one metric by several orders of magnitude translates to enormous real-world benefits.

          As for the cost of an SSD, I agree 100%. People here seem to balk at putting down $200 for an SSD, but then turn around and blindly add that Ivy Bridge to their shopping cart. I dare say that for the majority of time spend in front of our monitors, an SSD is a lot more important to the overal user experience than the CPU.

      • flip-mode
      • 7 years ago

      Yeah. I used to say $1/gig, but once they hit that I realized I needed to be more demanding.

      Seriously, though, my purchase of an SSD is not so much predicated on price, at this point, rather it is going to be based upon when I actually need to purchase another drive. If I needed a drive right now I’d be purchasing an SSD. They’ve reached price points where even a cheapskate like me is enticed. But I’m still too cheap to buy a hard drive when I don’t need to buy a hard drive.

        • rrr
        • 7 years ago

        That’s perfectly understandable OTOH. You don’t need it, you don’t buy it. Simple as that.

        • cegras
        • 7 years ago

        I bought a Vertex 60 gb for 140 in Dec 2010. The entire year and a half-ish that the SSD served me, compared to those who still boot from HDDs, was well worth the price I paid for it.

        • kamikaziechameleon
        • 7 years ago

        I’m just scared off by the intermittent drive failures and apparent decline in performance/reliability with time. When the newegg reviews for more than half the product market say “turds beware” I get scared.

          • Firestarter
          • 7 years ago

          So don’t buy crappy SSDs? There are enough options from reputable manufacturers with proper quality assurance, testing and validation.

          • flip-mode
          • 7 years ago

          We have three brands deployed here at work: Intel, OCZ, Crucial. No failures to date, even though the Crucial M4 needed a firmware update to correct a bug that cause crashing after 5000 hours of use. We have some X25 M G2 drives that are about three years old now, I think, and in use daily. I recently used the “Intel SSD Toolbox” utility to look at the “drive health” of one of those and it was measured as 100% healthy. I’m not sure what that means but I think it means I’m nowhere near wearing the thing out. I think most any SSD would last you several years in terms of the endurance of the flash itself and the only real issue to worry about is with the firmware.

          For the record, we have three OCZ Vertex drives and haven’t had a single issue with any of them. But I’m not a fan of OCZ for other reasons.

        • sweatshopking
        • 7 years ago

        yeah, pretty much this. i’m not going to get an ssd until i have a drive that dies, that i NEED replaced. with the few terabytes i’ve picked up over 5-6 drives, it’s going to be a while.

      • phez
      • 7 years ago

      The question is, how much is [url=https://techreport.com/r.x/wd-velociraptor-1tb/time-load-portal.gif<]6 seconds worth to you[/url<]? For some, an extra $200.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 7 years ago

        Come on now. It’s not an [i<]extra[/i<] $200 when a good 128GB drive doesn't even cost that much. You can even get a 64GB m4 for $80. While that may not fit someone's ginormous Steam folder, there are plenty of people who don't have even that much that will actually run faster on a SSD. I know my music and videos don't play any faster on one!

        • Firestarter
        • 7 years ago

        Like you only ever wait for a game to load. What about installing and updating said game? Or any other of the myriad of things that you’d do with your computer that are bottle-necked hard by the storage? I don’t mind waiting on a computer with an SSD, because I know it’ll be done before I get bothered about it. With an HDD, I’ll just go get some coffee or something, not even expecting it (whatever it is) to be done when I come back.

        This week, I uninstalled Adobe CS3 (the whole she-bang) from a work computer. It spent a good 25 minutes just deleting stuff! The Q6600 really didn’t help, nor did 4GB of RAM. I’m not saying it would have been done before I got back with coffee if it had an SSD instead of an HDD, but it sure as hell would have made a huge difference.

        • rrr
        • 7 years ago

        Plenty of differences in productivity between SSD and HDD are not quantifiable on charts. Yet, I’ve noticed them very clearly in everyday tasks. Saying it all boils down to 6 seconds difference in load times in game is incredibly preposterous.

        In fact I consider it easily one of the best upgrades I’ve ever had, in line with going from single core to C2D.

      • anotherengineer
      • 7 years ago

      I just ordered a 256GB Plextor M3 on the egg 🙂 $300 cnd, it is expensive. ($1.17/GB)

      HOWEVER

      I remember paying $260 for my 150GB adfd wd raptor ($1.73/GB)

      So the SSD is cheaper than my raptor was per gig

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        I never liked that line of reasoning. Go back far enough and you can buy ram that is cheaper per gig than harddrives used to be.

      • sircharles32
      • 7 years ago

      A set amount is only good for a set size, but now start to scale the size, and the price/GB needs to drop, not stay the same. Otherwise, you’ll be paying through the stratosphere for larger drive sizes.

      ie. How many people think it’s OK to pay $128 for a 128GB drive, but think it’s prohibitively expensive to pay $512 for a 512GB drive? Or something like that (you see my point thought – I hope).

        • N3M3515
        • 7 years ago

        I think you don’t pay double the price because it is only double de capacity but NOT double the speed. Simple.

    • riviera74
    • 7 years ago

    Sounds like great news for now. The only question I would have is whether that leads to higher SSD prices in 6-12 months.

    Also, who uses SSD caching that is available in the Z68 (and presumably the Z77) Intel chipsets anyways when a 128GB SSD can be had for less than $200?

    • Mourmain
    • 7 years ago

    Eeexcellent! [rubs palms together]

    The stars are aligning for a good purchase this summer.

      • dpaus
      • 7 years ago

      You’re planning to buy one of the bankrupted vendors?

        • Xylker
        • 7 years ago

        Spoken like a true CEO. 🙂

        With the correct background, and a solid business plan it could make for a neat adventure. (or lose you a ton o’ cash…)

          • dpaus
          • 7 years ago

          Well, as mattthemuppet points out, the focus of the story is how market-leading vendors are colluding to snuff out smaller vendors, which will have the effect of stifling price competition (of course, they’re only doing it to ensure the user ‘a quality experience’. Right….) So unless he’s deluded, his SSD is going to cost him [i<]more[/i<] by summer, not less. Ergo, if he's expecting a bargain, it's not on an SSD product. If I was Tim Cook, I'd use next Tuesday's coffee budget to buy up one or two of them just as insurance (aka 'bargaining tool with other vendors')

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Is it clear that collusion is going on, or are prices just getting slashed because competition is fierce? Do we need more than 4-5 SSD makers?

            • dpaus
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]Some of the leading SSD producers are concerned about inferior products that might disrupt development of the market, and therefore have resorted to price-cutting measures to force the retailers to leave the market[/quote<] That's collusion to drive weaker competitors out of business, pure and simple. [quote<]Do we need more than 4-5 SSD makers?[/quote<] That's a question appropriate for a Soviet-style managed economy, not a free market.

            • OneArmedScissor
            • 7 years ago

            Keep in mind this is a Digitimes article, and with the typical void of supporting/useful information. Also keep in mind that the first line says:

            [quote<]price reductions to reflect falling prices for NAND flash chips[/quote<] They're not even going as far as to suggest that all the big companies are going to sell at a loss until everyone else goes away. Even if they did that, their biggest competitors would all still be around, which really gets them nowhere, and absolutely does not allow them any leeway to raise prices. This is an overdue correction. The little guys tend to sell last year's drive at a minor discount, at least relative to everyone with the new drives. They're obviously creating pressure this way, and we all benefit, even if they can't keep it up forever. The big SSD makers can't keep it up forever, either. As technology progresses more and more rapidly, we're going to see more things come and go, much faster, and flash memory is only a few years away from being on the chopping block. Nobody needs to cry about Patriot or whoever having to drop out next year.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]That's collusion to drive weaker competitors out of business, pure and simple.[/quote<] If that is what's happening. It's just conjecture by digitimes. [quote<]That's a question appropriate for a Soviet-style managed economy, not a free market.[/quote<] The Soviet question would be how many factories do we need to build enough SSDs. My question is does having more than 4-5 companies really help consumers at all? Is there a benefit to having more? Is there a point where there is "enough" and having more companies is less efficient? SSDs are essentially a commodity item. I feel like we just need a few companies who can then have a nice economy of scale to build a lot of them cheaply.

            • Firestarter
            • 7 years ago

            We need as many SSD makers as the market will support!

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            And it looks like the answer to that is about 5.

            • OneArmedScissor
            • 7 years ago

            Even with that many around, it’s probably only because there used to be more prevalent controllers. But as of just recently, there are what, two left?

            Seemingly every drive is either the newest Marvell or Sandforce thing. Intel stopped bothering with their own and OCZ doesn’t appear to be making much use of their Barefoot acquisition.

            The only one real exception is the somewhat recent Samsung controller, but that’s limited to their one high end line, and doesn’t seem to be making its way into laptops or anyone else’s drives.

            Intel also sold their stake in IM Flash’s foundries to Micron. The ranks are thinning quickly.

            • Visigoth
            • 7 years ago

            Of course. You don’t design a high-performing SSD controller overnight, validate it in all sorts of extreme scenarios and start pumping out SSD’s from the factories.

            I’m just really looking forward to Marvell’s newest 88SS1987 controller, which should end all debates about SSD’s performing poorly in “dirty” write states.

            • Mourmain
            • 7 years ago

            I’m only hoping the small companies (and the price slashes) survive until summer.

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