A little less than a year ago, devastating flooding in Thailand decimated the hard drive industry. Entire factory floors were submerged under several feet of water, drive production slowed to a crawl, and drive prices rose accordingly. The industry seems to have finally sorted out its production issues, though. IHS iSuppli predicts that hard drive makers will ship 524 million units this year, a modest increase from 502 million units in 2011.
Looking further ahead, IHS iSuppli expects moderate but continued shipment growth through 2016. By that time, HDD shipments will purportedly top 575 million units. These numbers refer only to drives shipped for the PC industry, by the way. They don't include drive shipments for consumer electronics devices, which are expected to be down from their 2011 levels. The increasing popularity of streaming video services may be lessening the demand for local storage in products like PVRs.
Despite the fact that hard drive shipments appear to have rebounded nicely, prices remain high. We've been watching the slow decline of hard drive prices since last year, and there's still a ways to go. Today's prices are still above their pre-flood lows, often by substantial margins.
In addition to costing more, hard drives typically come with shorter warranties than they did a year ago. WD has cut the warranty period for its mainstream drives to two years, and equivalent products from Seagate are covered for only one year. Fortunately, premium models and enterprise-grade drives still come with five-year warranties.