A solid-state drive (SSD) shortage for ultrathin laptops and hybrid tablet/laptops will cause prices to stagnate next year after dropping for the last several years; and begin lowering again in 2016.
According to Storage Analyst, Fang Zhang, the price of SSDs for ultrathins will average $111 for 197GB this year and 264GB in 2015 due to manufacturers dedicating more factory capacity to producing smartphone and tablet storage. It is predicted manufacturers such as Samsung and Sandisk next year will shift some capacity to make flash storage for ultrathins, which will contribute to the drop to $109 for 340GB in 2016. The price will then plummet to $93 for 405GB in 2017 and $79 for 465GB of storage in 2018, and so on as more people transition from hard drives to SSDs.
Although SSD prices will flatten for a short period, the cost-per-gigabyte will reduce as storage capacity of drives continues to increase on a yearly basis. The price stabilization is measured based on the average storage density of SSDs used in ultrathin laptops, which, considering consumer demand, tends to increase with every new model.
Most thin-and-light laptops typically use SSDs that are closely bolted to the motherboards and not easily upgradeable, therefore requiring more storage space on each unit. This can be seen in the breakdown of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3. That differs from the SSDs in mainstream laptops, which can be plugged into bays and are fairly simple to replace.
Typically, storage represents 8 to 9 percent of the cost of building portable devices. While SSD price drops have contributed to lowering laptop prices, this may not help reduce newer ultrabook and hybrid prices in the coming years.
PC makers may instead resort to pulling back on innovation to adjust other features in hopes of reducing the cost of building ultrathin devices. Profit margins on PCs can be thin, so computer makers have reduced DRAM capacity, lowered screen resolutions or removed webcams to reduce costs and price.
Laptop innovation (or lack there of) plays a significant role in pricing as well.
It’s easy to believe that consumers are voting against PCs when they spend so much time with their mobile devices, but the real problem isn’t necessarily that people don’t need laptops, but that OEMs offer too little innovation for too much money.
Although Microsoft and Apple continue to reevaluate their core operating systems, Windows and OS X, adding features and improving interfacing with mobility advancements, such as the cloud; both are looking for ways to keep their operating systems relevant while keeping in tact the core PC and desktop experience.
Unfortunately for most of the laptop industry, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Because OEMs are either unable or unwilling to provide a premium, innovative laptop at a reasonable price point — $500 has been the average selling price for years — most consumers don’t see the economic benefit to purchase a brand new unit.
PC vendors promoting future-era laptops would like consumers to know they have many features that traditional models do not, but their arguments aren’t very compelling unless you’re willing to spend. If you’re willing to pay the price for a new model, you might see better performance, extra storage, a more colorful screen and longer battery life, but you won’t get much additional functionality.