The future looks bright for hard drive manufacturers like Seagate and Western Digital as consumers fill hard drives to the brim with gigabytes of digital movies, music, and other multimedia content. In turn, manufacturers are pushing the hardware boundaries by offering larger capacities. Western Digital believes that consumers will eventually store an average 1 TB of digital content per houseold by 2014.
At a recent briefing in London, WD's executive vice president and general manager of Branded Products and Consumer Electronics Jim Welsh predicted that 1.4 billion PCs, 450 million smartphones, and 300 million connected devices will be available worldwide by 2014. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't believe that consumers will totally rely on cloud-based storage by then.
"When you need a lot of space, the best value is still going to be external storage," he said. "There’s also a fear out there that the [cloud-based] service could go down. There have been some companies out there that have lost some files. And, for the consumer, there will always be some doubt that will inspire them to own a drive of their own content."
He also believes the consumer's growing demand for digital content will eventually kill off DVD and Blu-ray formats, adding that built-in optical drives may even be eliminated in notebooks. "[Blu-ray] will continue to do fairly well, because of the richness of the content," he admitted. "But the convenience of people being able to download [is a massive factor]. It's that convenience that's really very very important. So a lot of devices will not have optical drives."
Although hard drives are convenient, they don't last forever. Data burned on optical discs by consumer-based drives tend to fail after a number of years depending on the disc materials and storage environment. USB drives can store data for ten years or longer, however the connectors can get damaged, rendering them unreadable. The best bet--it seems--is to use services that allow consumers to re-download purchased content if the original files are accidentally erased or lost due to hardware failure.
Will cloud storage ultimately become the best solution for digital content?