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  (Source: STEC)

Seagate CEO William D. Watkins  (Source: Seagate)
Seagate prepares for a fight with SSD manufacturers

Seagate CEO Bill Watkins caused a bit of a commotion last month when he stated that he was unimpressed with solid-state drives (SSDs) for notebook computers and that his company would look towards lawsuits if sales of the HDD competitors began to grow. It looks as though Seagate is now going through with its promise to bring forth the lawsuits.

Seagate fired off the first shots on Monday by filing a lawsuit against STEC's SSD products. Seagate, a company deeply entrenched in traditional HDD technology, said that STEC violated four of its patents relating to error correction, memory-backup systems, and storage interfaces with computers.

"Unfortunately, others in our industry have taken shortcuts in the race to innovate, and in the process, we believe they are relying on intellectual property developed or acquired by Seagate to their own benefit," remarked Watkins. "Seagate has not been a particularly litigious company, but we have an obligation to our company and our shareholders to protect what belongs to them."

According to Seagate, it talked to rival SSD manufacturers in an effort to make them license its patents. "They have blatantly decided they don't have to," said Watkins to the Wall Street Journal. "Now is the time to start enforcing our patents."

However, STEC said that no such talks took place and it didn't hear about the patent infringement until the lawsuit was brought forth. STEC VP of marketing and business development Patrick Wilkison stated that Seagate simply feels threatened by the steady progress being made by SSD manufacturers.

"It’s not a big financial issue yet because the market is just taking off," Watkins told the New York Times. "But that’s why we want to set things straight now."

"This is not about stifling innovation or threats to our business," Watkins continued in an open letter. "We have an obligation to our company and our shareholders to protect what belongs to them."

STEC is the first manufacturer of SSDs to be targeted by Seagate, but it appears that it won't be the last. According to iSuppli, the SSD market total just $19M during all of 2007. However, the speedy, shockproof drives are estimated to generate $330M in sales this year and grow to $8.7B by 2012.

Updated 4/15/2008:
STEC released a statement regarding the Seagate lawsuit. Here's a portion from that statement:

STEC is one of the first companies to build SSDs, having designed, manufactured and shipped SSDs as early as 1994, long before any of the suggested patents were issued to Seagate. Given the effect SSDs are having on the HDD market, STEC believes that Seagate's lawsuit is completely without merit and primarily motivated by competitive concerns rather than a desire to protect its intellectual property. STEC believes that Seagate's action is a desperate move to disrupt how aggressively customers are embracing STEC's Zeus-IOPS technology and changing the balance of power in enterprise storage. Seagate is sending a clear signal that it recognizes STEC as the leader in the SSD business and is attempting to slow down part of the growth that STEC is gaining through its SSD offering, particularly in the enterprise segment. STEC will aggressively pursue its defense to this infringement action.

In addition, STEC will also closely examine the patents asserted by Seagate as STEC believes it held such technology including prior patents, dating more than a decade prior to any of Seagate's patents. Although STEC is in the process of analyzing the claims in this lawsuit, STEC believes that Seagate's asserted patents pertain to technologies where STEC has years of prior experience and/or patents. STEC has significant patents related to SSD which have been developed through the decades of experience STEC has with developing, manufacturing and shipping SSDs. Beyond that long history, STEC also believes that many of Seagate's claims are not relevant to SSD. For example, STEC was one of the originators of stacking technology with patents dating back to the mid-1990s, while Seagate's patent on this matter was issued in 2005.

Through this process, STEC will determine if Seagate is misappropriating any of STEC's core technologies; STEC will take appropriate action to protect its interests, including seeking the invalidation of Seagate's patents.

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Seagate HDDs
By InternetGeek on 4/15/2008 2:13:05 AM , Rating: 5
As much as I love a Seagate HDD I wouldn't think it twice to get a SSD that sells for the same price, comparable size and just as good quality... Nothing life-changing there, I just want to store more porn.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By Gul Westfale on 4/15/2008 2:18:02 AM , Rating: 4
i think seagate simply missed the boat on this one and are now suing everyone to try to make up lost ground... but they come out looking like a spoiled child crying for mama because someone else got bigger ice cream cone.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By Oregonian2 on 4/15/2008 5:19:16 PM , Rating: 1
Why? If I were a Seagate stockholder I'd want the head honcho's head to roll if he didn't sue the pants off of competitors who were violating patents held by Seagate. It's his corporate duty to do so (after trying to get revenue by licensing first, of course).

Of course, if he knows his patents aren't valid... uh...

RE: Seagate HDDs
By Oregonian2 on 4/15/2008 5:21:04 PM , Rating: 3
You know, just when I hit "Post Comment" it occurred to me that the lawsuit may only be a ploy to get access to the other company's patents in a cross-licensing settlement. Naw... they wouldn't be that sneaky would they? :-)

RE: Seagate HDDs
By Captain828 on 4/15/08, Rating: 0
RE: Seagate HDDs
By winterspan on 4/15/2008 4:08:34 AM , Rating: 4
Prices for good SSDs are indeed very high -- much more so than HDDs -- but nearly every single technical measures of performance favors SSDS.

Without even taking into account the unreleased Intel/Micron technology that promises a 5x transfer rate improvement over conventional NAND, you can already buy SATA II SSDs from companies like Samsung, BitMicro, MTron, et all that have sustained read AND write performance above the 100MB/sec level, comparing well with high performance 10K RPM HDDs today.

In your average usage scenarios other than large, sustained transfers -- like multiple random reads and writes -- SSDs completely blow away ANY harddrive-based storage.

Now factor in lower power requirements, smaller sizes, no noise, much higher shock and vibration resistance, and higher MTBFs, and it becomes obvious why Seagate is worried.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By Master Kenobi on 4/15/2008 8:14:39 AM , Rating: 2
SSD's still utterly fail at large data copies. Trying to copy 2+gig to a SSD will result in abysmal speed.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By murphyslabrat on 4/15/2008 2:33:23 PM , Rating: 2
Not necessarily. The only difference is that HDD access is more efficient when dealing with large amounts of coherent data, whereas an SSD doesn't get said benefit. In reality-land, SSD's actually compare more favorably in extended transfer scenarios, as they don't suffer a very large performance degredation. Furthermore, if that "2+gig" is scattered across the sectors of either device, the performance on the HDD will be severely degraded, while the SSD will be almost unaffected.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By FITCamaro on 4/15/2008 9:10:52 AM , Rating: 2
How do you figure SSDs beat traditional hard drives in MTBF when NAND flash has a limited number of read/write operations before failure? Even if it's 100 million read/writes, data is constantly being read/written even when a system is idling.

Sorry but I'll stick to far cheaper and larger capacity traditional drives for a few more years until it's proven that SSDs last and also the prices come down. I'm not going to pay as much for a hard drive as an entire laptop just to get an extra 20 minutes of battery life. And I just don't drop my laptop.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By oab on 4/15/2008 10:30:44 AM , Rating: 3
MTBF (MTTF) is an almost meaningless number anyway outside of warranty companies.

It's not 100million read/writes, it's 100 million WRITES, reads are "free". And it's not 100 million writes total the disk can make, it's 100 million writes per sector, and the disk has automatic write balancing to prolong the life of the disk.

Price per gig is the one of the biggest advantages to sticking with conventional HDDs now, although price for SDD drives will come down to much more "reasonable" levels within a couple years I'm assuming.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By othercents on 4/15/2008 10:33:34 AM , Rating: 2
I just don't drop my laptop

See that's where the problem is. You are different than most users. Some people at my office have to have their hard drives replaced every 6 - 12 months because of abuse. Solid State drives would keep this from happening.


RE: Seagate HDDs
By murphyslabrat on 4/15/2008 2:45:40 PM , Rating: 2
Currently, one of the largest performance problems in the UMPC market is the HDD. More and more products use the 1.8" form-factor, which results in abysmal performance.

As to the MTBF issue, the way it is computed differs from company to company. I have a friend in a small aeronautics company, and they state their MTBF as half the time till the earliest failure. An MTBF of 1,000,000 hours equates to over 114 years of constant use. Even if it is only half that, or even a tenth, I would sure as hell have a new computer by then; and that is much better than HDD's are doing nowadays.

And I don't want to hear anything about the EEE's SSD's unless you can show me a link to an MTBF rating exceeding 100,000 hours.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By omnicronx on 4/15/2008 11:45:32 AM , Rating: 2
Why does everyone assume Seagate is staying out of the SSD game? If their patents are in use, then STEC should pay the price, regardless of personal feelings. Seagate is not just merely trying to protect their HDD industry, they are also trying to stop competitors from entering the market using their technology, which I believe is perfectly acceptable.

Seagate knows SSD or something similar will be the wave of the future, they are not stupid, they are merely protecting their investments, if STEC wants to license out their technology, they may do so. You don't get to the to by letting others trample over you, if STEC wants to get to the top, they should be doing it the legal way, making a better product using their own technology.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By IcY18 on 4/15/2008 11:56:52 AM , Rating: 2
The timing of this lawsuit i think indicates that Seagate just wants to protect it's patents. If it was malicious they would have waited longer. I would say that i am up-to-date on all technology regarding computers and i have not heard of STEC. So it seems as though Seagate is taking care of this as you normally would and not in a way to intentionally fire shots at SSD development.

RE: Seagate HDDs
By wempa on 4/15/2008 12:35:06 PM , Rating: 2
STEC = Simple Tech

They have been around for a long time. I remember buying their memory cards along with Sandisk cards for the very first digital cameras.

Screw Seagate
By abzillah on 4/15/2008 2:48:46 AM , Rating: 2
I think we should just boycott seagate. If they want to stop progress in technology, we should just stop buying from them, and support other companies that make good hard drives, like western digital, hitachi ect.

RE: Screw Seagate
By Samus on 4/15/2008 4:41:11 AM , Rating: 3
I've purchased two WD's, my first two this century, just because of the statement's Will has made about interupting advancements in SDD. I've owned nothing but Seagate's til not, but the WD GL's are a great innovation.

SDD is clearly the future Will. Eventually having moving parts in a computer is going to be so 21st century.

Get with the times, all your SDD belong to us!

RE: Screw Seagate
By HakonPCA on 4/15/2008 11:50:24 AM , Rating: 4
all your SDD belong to us!

lol, its all your SDD ARE belong to us!

Now please someone set us up the bomb

RE: Screw Seagate
By Anosh on 4/15/2008 5:07:41 AM , Rating: 2
And what if his patent statements turn out to be true?

Would you not rather wait for the outcome before you make up your mind?

RE: Screw Seagate
By killerroach on 4/15/2008 9:00:21 AM , Rating: 2
We'll see how valid the claims are from the response of STEC to them... if they think they're particularly valid, expect this whole thing to be settled pretty fast.

RE: Screw Seagate
By Polynikes on 4/15/2008 11:01:57 AM , Rating: 2
It's not like this lawsuit will stop SSDs. All it means is the companies that make them will have to pay a licensing fee and maybe a "Oh, sorry we stole your patent" fee. Seagate will still be left in the dust when it comes to the future of storage technology.

RE: Screw Seagate
By FITCamaro on 4/15/2008 9:15:53 AM , Rating: 2
Seagate had many first's in new hard drive advancements. First 250GB platters, perpendicular recording, etc.

Them not making SSDs is hardly a reason to say they want to stop progress.

Seagate has some of the best drives out there as well as one of the best warranties. I'm not happy to see them suing either but their stuff is top quality and they'll keep getting my dollars when I have a choice.

RE: Screw Seagate
By KristopherKubicki on 4/15/2008 12:31:26 PM , Rating: 4
Seagate had many first's in new hard drive advancements. First 250GB platters, perpendicular recording, etc.

Those titles actually go to Komag, the company that produces platters for Seagate, Western Digital and Hitachi.

RE: Screw Seagate
By FITCamaro on 4/15/2008 4:03:36 PM , Rating: 3
Interesting. Then why did Seagate get these technologies first? (actually asking, not being arrogant) I thought Seagate developed the perpendicular recording method? If that was also Komag, why was Seagate's name often attributed to it? And how does Western Digital's acquisition of Komag play into things?

Strange computer nerd mentality.
By mindless1 on 4/15/2008 4:44:04 AM , Rating: 4
It's fairly irrelevant if you like Seagate or SSDs, the only question is whether Seagate has valid enforceable patents. If you don't like this situation you might just be opposed to the patent system itself.

Did you think that unlike other products, Seagate wouldn't have patents on their drive tech? It may be that some of them shouldn't exist, but so it is with many patents that stiffle innovation. Certainly there are both sides to the argument, patents seem necessary in some cases but given the power and value they represent the system is crude and becoming more unworkable every day.

By martinrichards23 on 4/15/2008 6:10:13 AM , Rating: 1
Yes, i doubt anyone would disagree with you, the problem is the mentality of "if you can't beat them, sue them", it just seems immoral, though legal.

RE: Strange computer nerd mentality.
By AntiM on 4/15/2008 8:14:33 AM , Rating: 3
I think people are just sick of one lawsuit after another. Litigation instead of innovation. It seems like a daily occurrence that one company is suing another or trying to sue the whole world. The patent system certainly does have its problems. Patents are all too often vaguely worded; it's a mess.

By DigitalFreak on 4/15/2008 8:43:43 AM , Rating: 2
"If you can't innovate, litigate!"

By RIPPolaris on 4/15/2008 10:25:31 AM , Rating: 3
This litigation is necessary. Why should a company put its resources into innovating when 10 companies crop up a few days later and, breaching their patents?

By deeznuts on 4/15/2008 2:21:38 AM , Rating: 2
I like seagate as a company, but this guy is starting to annoy me.

And it is very stupid to only decide to sue after a market begins to grow. Can't believe his GC allowed him to make such a statement.

By Captain828 on 4/15/2008 2:35:55 AM , Rating: 3
Let's not forget his best line:

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

By eetnoyer on 4/15/2008 6:38:35 AM , Rating: 1
On the contrary. There's no sense in suing before they start to make money. Can't get blood from a stone.

By FITCamaro on 4/15/2008 9:11:49 AM , Rating: 2
Chuck Norris can.

By onwisconsin on 4/15/2008 11:36:29 AM , Rating: 2
What can't he do?

By deeznuts on 4/15/2008 4:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
You don't need to necessarily sue for damages, what you are arguing. There are other remedies. Specific performance for example, requiring the company to license the tech if they introduce the technology.

In the court of law, sitting around when you have a claim and you know you should protect your claim, is not well liked. Look up the "Defense of Laches." The court does not like claimants who sleep on their rights, so to speak.

Lawsuits, huh?
By Gholam on 4/15/2008 4:04:58 AM , Rating: 2
Let's see them try and sue Intel...

RE: Lawsuits, huh?
By Dribble on 4/15/2008 6:37:57 AM , Rating: 3
Standard practice is you get as many patents as you can. Seagate couldn't sue Intel not because Intel wasn't breaking Seagate's patents but because Intel would just counter sue using any of their huge library of patents that Seagate are probably infringing on.

Little SSD makers however don't have that defence.

RE: Lawsuits, huh?
By Master Kenobi on 4/15/2008 8:19:44 AM , Rating: 3
Indeed, Seagate does not want to screw with Intel just yet. Intel has also yet to release to the market a SSD, so they are still technically not infringing on anything.

Protecting your IP is one thing...
By ciparis on 4/15/2008 5:17:55 AM , Rating: 5
But protecting your IP while sitting on your ass not bothering to develop an obviously in-demand product as you sue the companies pushing the market forward without you is quite another.

I think I'm done with Seagate.

Whatever happened to....
By Arctucas on 4/15/2008 7:31:34 AM , Rating: 1
The refund or whatever we were supposed to receive from Seagate because they advertised their HDDs with more capacity than they actually had?

I signed up for that last year and have yet to hear anything about it.

RE: Whatever happened to....
By oab on 4/15/2008 10:37:09 AM , Rating: 2
You were supposed to mail in a form to the guys lawyer (with your reciept showing purchase of the drive), and they would give you either a) free backup software or b) a cheque for 5% of your drives purchase price.

If you didn't do that, well, the deadline passed two weeks ago.

RE: Whatever happened to....
By Arctucas on 4/15/2008 7:16:32 PM , Rating: 2
No kidding?

I believe I filled out a form on some webpage, maybe not. Damn my failing memory, oh well, my Barracudas were cheap and work great.

WD Green Power Drives FTW
By PAPutzback on 4/15/2008 8:15:38 AM , Rating: 2
Quiet, Fast, cheap and run cool. I have 2 750's and don't plan on switching brands anytime soon. I have 4 Seagate 7200.10s and the have the worst sounding seek noise I have ever heard.

By Captain Orgazmo on 4/15/2008 8:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
I got rid of my 7200.10 500GB because it was the loudest, most annoying piece of garbage hard disk I've ever owned (besides a Samsung I had about 7 years ago), and exchanged it for a 7200.11, which is near silent, and seems a bit faster too. It's actually kind of weird with the 7200.10s, because I have an older 320GB 7200.10 that is absolutely silent (I think it may be because the newer Seagates are made in China instead of Taiwan or Malaysia or wherever they were made before).

By mattclary on 4/15/2008 8:24:29 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a Western Digital guy, pretty much the only thing I use. I used Seagates about 12-15 years ago, but had several that died...

Maybe this guy and Darl McBride are golfing buddies?

By TimberJon on 4/15/2008 2:30:31 PM , Rating: 2
I'm with you. WD was my first HDD. Back in '98, a 20GB was the 5h!7. Never liked seagate as I heard horror stories and had a few friends home-built systems fail due to using the cheapest components.

At the time, 64mb of RAM was considered standard. I bought 128, and it was 133 mhz lol, the latest! ABIT Mobo cost about $140 so i know it was a good one, 20GB hdd and a Creative X-Gamer Sound card, Creative RIVA TNT2 Ultra vid card and win 98SE. NEVER had a problem, ever, no BSOD. Now that Im much more experienced with PC's I think this was mainly because the Sound and Video cards had compatible drivers. Later I upgraded this same rig to winXP and it still ran fine.

By IM shaggy on 4/15/2008 9:38:08 AM , Rating: 2
Well, after his comment about just making an item to store more porn I think Seagate is feeling threatened. They haven't started R&D on an SSD of their own so they will try to maintain market share by suing all the SSD companies into bankruptcy. Pretty bad move IMHO. I don't think they will be able to touch Samsung. As was said earlier companies like Samsung and Intel have their own libraries of patents to pull from for counter suits.

RE: Threatened
By Brandon Hill on 4/15/2008 9:46:07 AM , Rating: 2
They haven't started R&D on an SSD of their own so they will try to maintain market share by suing all the SSD companies into bankruptcy.

"While Mr. Watkins says conventional drives will continue to dominate many data-storage applications, he announced plans last year for Seagate to begin making its own SSDs."

"We welcome advances in this, and other technologies, and in fact we continue to invest considerable R&D funds and now have teams of people focused on the development of Seagate solid state and related technologies."

Wish List...
By TimberJon on 4/15/2008 2:14:48 PM , Rating: 2
Pushing SSDs and HDDs aside, I want to see laser-based or holographic storage that can read-write at speeds we are dreaming of now. Push the envelope, break the barrier, don't just steadily improve upon older systems.. I think that there should be a 2 lb block that you install in your Case that is self-liquid cooling, has processing integrated to the storage and the storage is so fast that you can set in a software how much storage you want to partition for RAM, eliminating the need for addon memory and eliminating the need for upgrades. I'll pay $3000 for such a device. Built in liquid-cooled northbridge, processor, memory, chipset, and storage in one unit? Then you're running carbon-optic cables and liquid lines to your Graphics block..

I still believe that computers havn't advanced that much from when my 366 Celeron was O/C'd to 500+ back when Intel was just barely squeezing a 450mhz pentium from its cheeks.

Wheres that 5.0 we were promised? More funding to the optical, laser and carbon-based components please.

porn storage
By Screwballl on 4/15/2008 2:33:18 PM , Rating: 2
"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn."

guess they want to somewhat corner the market on porn storage /laugh/

Seagate - Scared Stupid
By Belard on 4/15/2008 3:22:13 PM , Rating: 2
They're way behind on whatever SSD development they're working on.

HDD are fast and cheap for now, but SSD of whatever type is the future. Almost no heat, no moving parts (to break and fail), no noise, smaller and eventually faster.

In 5 years time, I bet the HDD market will be noticablly smaller than it is today.

Get a Grip
By INeedCache on 4/16/2008 12:34:38 AM , Rating: 2
Most of you are really jumping to conclusions. It seems as soon as someone sues anymore, they are automatically evil. Ever think for a moment how you would think if you had a patent(s) and someone else was violating it (them) and making money at your expense? Or you at least thought they were? Sure, some lawsuits are frivolous, but some have merit. Without knowing a lot of other facts not brought out here, how can any of you unequivocally say Seagate is the bad guy? Because they did not sue right away? That happens a lot, and many times the suits still have merit. Maybe Seagate is the bad guy here, but we cannot tell from this short story. As for STEC's statement, what would you think they would say, "Sure, we violated their patents, but so what?" I don't think so. I think there is a canned statement for use in reply to patent infringement lawsuits, just fill in a few blanks. I also doubt very much that a company like Seagate will be caught by surprise by SSD, and be left behind. Stifle innovation? Hey, business is about money, and if someone is violating your patent, you don't not sue out of fear of stifling innovation. Get real. Don't want to buy a Seagate drive anymore? Then don't. I will, because of the 3 manufacturer's drives we sell, Seagate, WD, and Samsung, Seagate's have been the most reliable for us over the last 5 years. They have the best warranty, too.

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