Newly released thinner hard disk drives (HDD) sized 5.0 and 7.0 millimeters have the potential to gain back some HDD market share lost to solid-state drives (SSD), especially if the new hard drives find their way into future ultrathin PCs and PC tablets.

This is according to a Storage Space brief just released from information and analytics provider IHS.

Lighter in weight and thinner in breadth, the 5.0- and 7.0-mm models will form a new class of ultraslim HDDs that are forecast to eventually displace the much thicker 9.5-mm drives that currently rule the industry. The combined shipments of 5.0- and 7.0-mm HDDs will reach 133-million units by 2017, up from just 5-million last year. Meanwhile, shipments of 9.5-mm HDDs will deteriorate over time, to 79-million in 2017, down from 245-million units in 2012.

Both the 5.0- and 7.0-mm HDD products will see increasing adoption starting this year, along with another form of storage device known as the hybrid HDD, in which a NAND flash component or so-called cache SSD is joined with the hard drive within one storage enclosure. Use of these new products will proliferate because they are smaller in size and have the capability to improve overall storage performance—important variables in an age that emphasises smaller form factors as well as optimal speed at affordable prices.

Both the thinner HDDs along with hybrid HDDs could even start making inroads into ultrathin PCs and tablet PCs— two markets that mostly use solid-state drives as their storage element. Hard disks have lost market share to SSDs since the latter, offering better performance, can be more easily used to achieve a thinner and lighter form factor crucial to tablets and ultrathin PCs.

This year, for instance, SSD shipments will climb nearly 90% 64,6-million units, while HDD shipments will decline 5% to 545,8-million units. However, the new and thinner HDDs could stem losses of the hard disk space, especially if their costs can fall to 10%-15% of a tablet or to 10%-20% of an ultrathin PC, IHS believes.

These thresholds are important because they could be instrumental in persuading tablet and ultrathin PC brands to consider 5.0- and 7.0-mm. hard disks as possible alternatives to the SSDs now used as the predominant storage element. Solid-state drives are relatively expensive at present compared to other storage types and cut into the overall margins of computer and tablet makers, so the use of more economical storage alternatives that boost the bottom line of makers would make a persuasive argument to undertake a switch.