A few days ago, news broke of a huge deal in the technology space: Western Digital’s purchase of SanDisk for $19 billion. That’s a lot of money, and it’s a sign that Western Digital knows the days of its hard drive business are numbered. And now comes word that Western Digital is folding its Green line of 5400RPM hard drives into its 7200PRM Blue line. WD’s spin on this is it will help consumers choose the right product. Our take: corporate whitewash from a company with a stale product line.
Here’s the deal: WD has been the undisputed leader in hard drive tech for a very long time. From its original “Caviar” line of drives launched in 1991 (named after fish eggs, of all things), to its beloved ultra-fast 10,000 RPM Raptors of the mid-2000s (much catchier name!), to its capacious 6TB Green media drives of today, WD has had a little something for everyone.
Except that no one’s buying. While the solid-state market is expanding rapidly, the hard drive market continues to crater. For a company that exclusively manufactures hard drives, that’s not great news. Hence paying a ton for SanDisk, one of the leading NAND memory manufacturers. NAND is at the heart of all solid-state storage devices, and WD needs a piece of that market. That’s all fine and dandy from our point of view, nothing to see here.
But the latest news on the re-branding of WD’s Green drives strikes us as deceptive. The problem for WD, besides the shrinking market for hard drives, is that it hasn’t demonstrated any innovation in its hard drive line for years. Basically, it’s acted like a big, old-school tech company caught in the headlights. The Green line has been its most promising, with slow, quiet hard drives offered in a huge array of sizes, perfect for media storage. The Blue line, which had previously been at the heart of WD’s offerings, has been gutted, with only a small 1TB model widely available for at least the past two years. Meanwhile, its Black line of ultra-expensive drives has had a hard time finding a market recently in the face of cheap SSDs that can run circles around them performance-wise.
So why is WD folding the Green drives into the Blue line? Because it wants to sell more mainstream drives. But frankly, it doesn’t make any. And everyone already knows, based on WD’s own marketing, that the Green drives aren’t mainstream. They’re slow, and totally inappropriate for use as main system drives. Instead of expanding the Blue line for OEMs and value-conscious PC builders, WD is making a mockery of its once-distinguished lineup. Buyers will see the Blue label and guess that all Blue drives are equivalent. But they’re not, far from it in fact, and you’ll need to dig deep into WD’s spec list for its “expanded” Blue line to figure out what you’re actually getting.
Here at The Tech Buyer’s Guru, our goal is to “Bring Tech to Light,” helping our readers make sense of all the latest technology releases. And so while WD tries to hide what they’re actually selling, our DIY Build Guides will continue to spell out in great detail exactly what you’re getting when you choose our recommended products.