Like many, we fondly remember our first 5.25-inch 5MB metal oxide hard drive that seemed lightning fast despite the noisy motor. You could never imagine filling all of the space…in years.

So why is the Cheshire Cat smiling today?

Well the cat happens to be in the storage business and he knows there is a content explosion and hardware of all types need to be fed content. Then once the hardware gets the content it needs to be stored…somewhere, somehow.

Whether it’s the mundane use of storage for business or government documents or data or the lovely, lively audio/video personal/home entertainment we are increasingly needing more and more storage (Figure 1).

Life is good and it doesn’t matter if you’re in the rotating or flash memory fields fixed or removable. Best of all, you’re human…you’re a packrat. Once you’ve got that content digital, audio, video, web you don’t throw it away.

Our ancient 5MB HD? You’d blow through that in a morning at home or the office.

How good/bad is it?

Well a 2003 UC Berkeley study showed that you you know the “average guy” — knock out 800 MB of personal data a year or over 100GB in your lifetime. Broadcast TV produces over 75 PB (that’s petabytes) of content.

Even before IM (instant messaging) we were generating 400 PB of email a year (boy that’s a lot for lawyers to wade through).

And way back in history (2002) we recorded more than 5 EB (exabytes) were recorded.

All of that was before we really got consumer products into the storage business.

Broadcast radio and TV is almost 100% digital today. Internet TV sites are sprouting up everywhere. Video on demand and subscription services over the web are showing tremendous growth. HD content is becoming the norm and HDTVs are the hottest segment of the home entertainment market (even though consumer education is severely lacking).

Family entertainment is no longer confined to the living room. We expect our content to be location free and available on our PCs, our portable media players, our cellphones, our everything.

Now that we’re moving so rapidly into the digital world, storage has become the major play. How digital:

* 96 million households have pay TV in the U.S.
* 28.5 million homes have digital cable in the U.S.
* 27.3 DBS (digital broadcast satellite) homes in the U.S.
* 82% of the households have DVD players/recorders (140M) in the U.S.
* 42.5% have game consoles in the U.S.
* HDTVs are in 16% of the homes in the U.S.
* DVRs are in 12% of the homes (16.8 million) in the U.S.
* More than 105M portable MP3 players were sold last year WW
* More than 700M mobile phones were sold WW (Figure 2)
* 64.7M notebook computers were sold WW
* More than 20M digital cameras were sold in the U.S.
* Over 3M digital camcorders

Whether you’re doing it with your cellphone, a digital camera or camcorder; you’re helping to build the need for storing images in record numbers (Figure 3). Funny thing about all those digital images that are grabbed according to a CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) report last year, lots of folks don’t know how to download the images. So they do what storage folks love to hear…they buy more storage (flash and/or HD).

For this they can only say…Thank You!!!!

Hard drive technology has come a long way is both size and capacity since that ancient 5MB unit we first enjoyed. The industry suddenly became hot and became sexy (we know sexy may not be a term you’d use to describe HDs). The industry has been on a fast track the last few years increasing the per platter capacity, shrinking the size, adding intelligence and lowering the per GB price.

Anyone who only has 100GB on his/her desktop system is looked on with pity. People who tote their notebook systems with them everywhere wonder why they can only have an 80GB drive on their system (capacity is moving up). The new and cute as hell — .85-inch drives are pushing their way into a growing range of consumer electronic and mobile products (Figure 4).

But the semiconductor-based memory product folks are far from standing still. They “know” the audio player, digital camera, USB drive and phone markets are their markets! The growth of the NAND (it has some obscure engineering name that has been shortened to NAND) flash market (Figure 5) has kept semiconductor firms like LG, Samsung, M-Systems, SanDisk, Toshiba and others adding production capacity as rapidly as possible.

People used to flash (excuse the pun) their 32MB USB drives. Now they simply can’t get along with less than 1GB and 2GB is quickly becoming the must have unit.

Reading the writing on the wall, the memory chip folks like Samsung and the others have an aggressive program underway to try and keep pace with the user’s storage demands (Figure 6).

While the CE segment of the hard drive market is relatively small (Figure 7), it is also the one that gains the greatest amount of press visibility and attention because…it is something ordinary folks can identify with. Now and in the foreseeable future, hard drives will continue to have a cost per GB advantage over flash (Figure 8).

Both camps reluctantly admit that one storage unit doesn’t meet everyone’s needs because content capacity is still king. For example:

* 500MB holds 500 4MPixel photos, 128 songs, 45 min of VGA video
* 1GB holds 1000 4MPixel photos, 250 songs, 1.5 hrs of MPEG-4 video
* 10GB holds 2500 songs, 15 hrs of MPEG-4, 4.8 hrs of DVD video

Each (comparing sub-1-inch HD and flash) has its benefits. With Flash:

* compact size
* range of capacities
* low power consumption
* shock resistant

However today’s hot 0.85-inch HDs offer:

* higher capacity
* fast read/write
* low cost per GB
* faster data transfer
* better data life
* improving shock resistance

Whether you enjoy your content at home, in your notebook, your media player, your phone or your whatever; we’ve still got a few years for it to be easy and seamless.

People in the nation’s capital and Tellywood weave wonderful tales of people downloading, copying and stealing content. Have you looked closely at the bandwidth capacity across the U.S.? How about the rest of the world?

High speed, high capacity broadband may be available in NY City, Washington DC area, Hong Kong, much of Korea, Taiwan and other isolated pockets but we are years away from that performance and capability in 50% of the Americas and the rest of the industrialized countries.

People such as ourselves who have found some great IPTV still watch it on our computer, not on the TV. Getting it from the pipe to the set isn’t easy and it isn’t seamless…yet! Want to go directly from your DVR to your personal media player? Oh yeah that’s a great way to waste a couple of hours.

Want to download your content (that you pay for) and then move it from your DVR or your computer to your digital media player or your cellphone? Or your car? Or to your 2nd home/cabin?

Tellywood’s answer is to buy another license because the DRM software prohibits making your copies your way and using your content your way.

Microsoft’s Vista, Intel’s ViiV, Apple and AMD Live offer something called managed copies. But moving them (whatever a managed copy is) around is still difficult at best and Tellywood is intent on making the seamless movement more difficult rather than easier.

They have so many proposals for protecting the consumer it is no wonder Lewis Carroll’s white rabbit was late! And the U.S. Congress applauds Tellywood’s “commitment” to plugging the analog hole and their proposal for implementing the HiDef broadcast flag.

Maybe the Cheshire Cat isn’t the storage industry but Tellywood thinking they are going to get their way of selling you the same content again and again.

It may be a grin that doesn’t last too long though if they find out that Sundance Festival participants and independent music and video developers are going to make their content readily available to consumers without making them jump through hoops. And as InfoTrends has pointed out numerous times the greatest amount of content people really want to keep and share is personal.

Photos, family event/activity videos as well as Indie content are growing. Fortunately, that requires more and more storage.

As for the Tellywood content? If the content protection is too great, we’ll just wait for a couple of 15-year-olds to make it available.

Of course, the content has to get a lot better before we think about saving it to our flash or hard drive. For the time being, one viewing is more than enough!!!