Depending on how you measure and which markets you scan, the price of hard drives has gone up 25 percent to 200 percent -- or more -- in the past few weeks, thanks to floods in Thailand that have knocked out hard drive manufacturing facilities.
That isn't the worst of it. Supplies are thinning out and laptop manufacturers are publicly predicting they'll have trouble filling their machines with hard drives by the end of the year.
But the manufacturing capacity for SSDs (solid-state drives) has not been affected. If you're in the market for an SSD-based device, such as an Ultrabook laptop, now might be a time to buy -- before demand pushes those prices up, too.
Three weeks ago, I warned that the floods in Thailand would bring hard drive supply shortages and higher prices. Two weeks ago, I raised a red flag about soaring hard drive prices. Now, just as inexorably as the flood waters inundating Bangkok, the wave's going to roll over SSDs.
Why? Laptop manufacturers are caught between a rock and a hard place. They're looking at 500GB 2.5-inch hard drives for $100 to $150 -- twice as much as they cost a month ago -- if they can find them in quantity. That pushes up their build costs, and retail won't be far behind. Acer, for one, has announced it's raising prices on laptops in mid-November.
The price points are moving quickly. Already in the sales doldrums, netbooks are getting tarred with the same hard drive price increases. But since Ultrabooks typically use SSDs or combinations of lower-capacity SSDs and small hard drives, their prices aren't as susceptible to hard drive roller-coaster rides. Intel has been pushing Ultrabook manufacturers to lower their costs so that they're more competitive with laptops and netbooks. Now it looks like increases in hard drive prices will take on some of the heavy lifting -- in the other direction.