In an interview with Fortune magazine, Seagate CEO Bill Watkins both downplayed the significance of flash-based solid-state drives in the personal computer market place…and then implied his company is considering suing SSD manufacturers for patent infringement over the interface that connects the storage devices to computers.
In the interview, Watkins first argued SSD drives are too expensive for everyday personal computer use—a point many would-be early adopters would no doubt concede. “Realistically, I just don’t see the flash notebook sell,” Watkins said. “We just don’t see the proposition.”
However, more significantly, Watkins believes SSD manufacturers like Samsung and SanDisk are violating Seagate and Western Digital patents covering communications between storage devices and computers. As flash-based storage devices drop in price and begin to offer serious competition to conventional hard drives, Watkins implied Seagate would consider suing SSD manufacturers for a slice of their business.
Industry watchers believe that day may come soon: prices for flash memory have been dropping rapidly; Intel recently found flash prices had declined almost twice as fast as the company expected, leaving it with a considerable amount of high-priced inventory on-hand. If Intel cuts prices to move its existing SSD supply, it could trigger a price war with other SSD manufacturers…and suddenly SSDs wouldn’t be (quite) as outrageously expensive when compared to traditional hard drives.