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Western Digital wrestles back hard drive crown

Since falling from the top of the world's hard drive market thanks to the Thai floods, US manufacturer Western Digital reclaimed its lead over Seagate in the second quarter of 2012.

In January, WD said the floods, which affected its ability to manufacture hard disk drives, cost the company $199 million (£125 million). WD also said that it wouldn't be back to pre-flood production levels until the third calendar quarter. But in the second quarter, the company produced about 71 million HDD units and took in $4.8 billion (£3.03 billion) in revenue, a record for WD, according to IHS iSuppli. Comparatively, Seagate shipped 65.9 million HDD units during the same period and brought in $4.5 billion (£2.84 billion), though that was also a record for Seagate.

"The company now has fully recovered from the disaster, allowing it to sharply increase shipments of HDDs for notebook PCs, up 28 per cent from the first quarter," said Fang Zhang, an analyst for storage systems at IHS. "Western Digital is on track to retain the top spot in shipments and revenue for the third quarter."

According to IHS, total second-quarter HDD shipments topped 157 million units, 8 per cent higher than the first quarter's 145.1 million. Western Digital and Seagate collected 87 per cent of the entire market, while Toshiba picked up the remaining 13 per cent.

Toshiba fell almost 2.5 per cent, losing about 500,000 shipments between the first and second quarters of 2012.

Zhang predicted that Western Digital is on track to retain its top spot in shipments and revenue in the third quarter. Close competitor Seagate – the leader in desktop, enterprise, and non-PC segments – will likely continue to play runner up, according to IHS.

The longtime tug of war between the companies will continue, IHS said, citing the fourth quarter of the year as a major tossup in which either organisation could be crowned the industry champion. It all depends on how well each executes the remainder of the year, IHS iSuppli said, along with the market performance of products on which hard disk drives depend.

In June, the same market intelligence firm predicted that current high prices for HDDs won't return to pre-Thailand-flood levels for several years, likely as far as 2014.