Japan's minority position in the HDD business is much stronger than it may appear. The Japanese have a strong presence at the leading edge of technology, which is presently found in 2.5-inch drives. They are building momentum in the components business. They have special skills that may be crucial when the evolutionary path that the industry has been following needs to change because of superparamagnetism or other obstacles.

The vision of the future that the WTEC team found in Japan is the same as we have here in the United States. Hard disk drives will continue to dominate online storage for at least the next 10 years. Simple scaling has driven the technology for 40 years. In that time, the MR head represents the only change in the physics of how a disk drive operates. But 10 years from now, other significant changes in technology will be necessary; simple scaling of the storage medium will not be possible. At that time, the leading companies will have had to grapple with a number of technical challenges, for which the Japanese are well prepared.

Published: June 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian