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I came across this today, dated August 26. Though definitely not an
immediate threat, I wonder if it might have been a factor in the fall...


Maybe. Samsung is an interesting "competitor" as they are formidable chip
manufacturers and care amazingly little about making a profit.
So at a naive level they look like a scary adversary.

But the word "competitor" is in quotes because I don't see flash as an issue.
Ignoring hybrids, Seagate will get into flash drives or they won't, but
it will be irrelevant to their investors as there is no money to be
made in that area, regardless of volume and market share.
I believe that will remain true, as there aren't any barriers to competitive entry even now.
I value STX solely as a moving parts hard drive manufacturer, and
specifically I hope they don't deploy much capital into flash drives.
Unlikely, as (a) they're pretty good capital allocators, and (b) it isn't
very capital intensive anyway as long as you're not the one owning the fab.

I think of Seagate as one might think of Kodak way back when, say 1990,
if you can imagine that it cost $10 billion to build a digital camera
factory which would have changed the rate of technology conversion.

As an aside,
A lot of observers say that Kodak were stupid sticking with film and
missing the opportunity to be a big player in digital, but I think this
is a dangerous misreading of what really happened.
The film business was a truly great business. Great businesses are extraordinarily rare.
You can't move into a new business and think you'll do really well just because
you did really well in your last one. Nobody makes good return on digital photography.
Thus, Kodak should have abandoned digital photography efforts even
sooner and in an even bigger way, and managed the company as a wind down.
Their biggest flaw wasn't the missed opportunity, as there wasn't one,
but rather their misreading (along with pretty much everyone else) of
just how fast the film business would fade once the slide started.

Similarly, I think the currently great business of making hard drives will
eventually be replaced with the uninteresting business of making flash drives.
(for "interesting" read "high returns to shareholders")
There will be no new winners to replace the old ones.
So why do I have a big position in Seagate?
They key word is "eventually". I just think the replacement will happen a
lot more slowly than most market observers because of the way the math works out.
The trend increase in global capacity required, the cost of a chip fab,
and the amount by which rotating media are cheaper mean all-flash drives
will not be competitive/feasible for large data requirements for quite a long time.
There simply aren't enough flash chips to meet the aggregate demand,
and there won't be enough of them unless somebody builds a LOT of new
flash chip fabs, and it's unlikely anybody will be dumb enough to spend
that much money to do so given the returns available on that capital.
Unless the CCP decides it's a strategic goal as they've run out of other ways to waste money.

Jim
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