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By | Kelly Fiveash 23rd July 2007 15:03

Western Digital channel in a spin over new green HDD

'Show the channel more respect'

Western Digital (WD) has launched a range of "green" 3.5in hard-disk drive (HDD), but has decided not to disclose any speed or cache specifications.

At a European channel partner-focused, media-light event in Reykjavik, Iceland, WD said spin speed and disk cache were no longer the key-overriding factors in the storage industry.

Instead, the world's second largest HDD vendor behind Seagate is calling for a strategic shift of focus in the channel where it wants resellers and distributors to bang the energy efficiency drum with its new GreenPower (GP) family of WD desktop, enterprise, consumer electronics (CE), and external HDD products.

WD desktop vice president Don Bennett, who presented the new GP product line which will ship in capacities from 320Gb to one terabyte, placed emphasis on the firm's claim that the HDD could save up to 40 per cent in power consumption.

Explaining the logic behind the firm's shift in focus, as well as its decision not to release the speed and cache specifications, Bennett said:

"We may vary the RPM [revolutions per minute], depending on the best power usage of the product. We don't want to disclose and paint ourselves into a box. There's a balance that we have to do in order to continue to be best in class."

But David Nicander, managing director of Swedish distie Gandalf, expressed concern about bringing such a product to market.

He argued that customers view HDDs in the same way as cars, with the key selling point ultimately coming down to the fastest speed at the right price.

To reassure channel resellers, Bennett added that WD was holding the specifications back from OEMs too.

But he failed to convince everyone that it was the right strategy for WD partners to adopt, with Nicander bluntly telling Bennett: "You need to show the channel more respect."

WD CEO John Coyne, who also attempted to quell concerns at the event, pointed out how, for example, a 5400 RPM drive has been known to outperform a 7200 RPM disk. He added that specifications can be misleading for the customer.

He said: "We're trying to change the way the industry looks at the hard-disk drive."

The WD Caviar HDD 1Tb will be the first to ship with the new GP technology and will be available in the firm's My Book range from this month.

WD also confirmed today that 1Tb desktop channel shipments will follow in August, while its enterprise and CE drives will ship in volume sometime during Q3.

The technology built into the new GP range includes Secure Park which lifts the heads off the disk. WD claimed that it will reduce power requirements and drag, thereby lowering the heat generated.

It's a marked move away from the industry-standard mantra of competing over whose drive has the fastest RPM, and WD has taken, what could be viewed as, a bold strategic step in a radical new direction.

Bennett said the firm, which is on course to go vertically-integrated like Seagate and Hitachi GST, is grasping for 30 per cent in desktop storage and that the hope is to see that figure rise to 35 per cent within the next year.

He said: "We don't expect it to be a huge hit in the channel right off the bat, but those who can figure out how to sell it with our help can expect to make a little bit of money." ®

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