Meanwhile, back in Thailand, the hard drive production situation looks muddy. Last week Seagate -- which didn't have any production facilities in flooded areas -- said it expected to ship 41 to 45 million hard drives this quarter, compared to 48.9 million in the fourth quarter of last year. It also says it could end the year with the capacity to produce 60 million drives per quarter, if component shipments pick up. Seagate expects demand in the quarter will hit 180 million units, but anticipates that worldwide supply will only reach 110 to 120 million.
Western Digital, on the other hand, hasn't issued any official numbers since shortly after the flood hit -- almost a month ago. Analysts estimate that Western Digital could turn out 22 to 26 million units this quarter, primarily from its plants in Malaysia and China. But the company hasn't hung its hat recently on any specific numbers: a potential wild card at this point.
Nimble component companies are striking back. Nidec, which makes hard drive motor components in one of its flooded Thai plants, has one plant back onstream as of Nov. 4. Smaller component manufacturers, such as Eng Teknologi and Dufu Technology, both based in Malaysia, have quickly moved production to Malaysia, China, and the Phillipines.
Unless Western Digital has a major surprise in store, demand for hard drives should stay high through the end of this year and well into the first quarter -- quite possibly even into the second quarter of next year.
Even though SSDs remain substantially more expensive than HDDs -- nobody expects IT departments to put 1TB of SSD memory in newly issued computers -- increased laptop (and netbook) prices are going to cause many buyers to look at Ultrabooks and SSD alternatives. If you expect to be in that group, it would behoove you to start looking now.
This story, "Buy SSD-based laptops now -- before prices jump," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.