Even though solid state drives have been growing in popularity at a significant rate, hard drives have been growing in capacity at a, more or less, similar pace, and Toshiba seems bent on helping them keep their hold over the mainstream market by means of a new technique called bit-pattern recording.
Mostly, solid state drives have already surpassed HDDs when it comes to endurance, compactness and, of course, data transfer rates.
Also, the Windows 7 TRIM command resolved the issue of performance degradation over time, meaning that deleted sectors will no longer clutter and eventually bring a SSD's life to an end.
Still, SSDs are still more expensive than HDDs and, most importantly, far from having a matching capacity, and Toshiba seeks to exploit this gap.
What the bit-pattern recording technique does is generate a storage density of 2.5Tb per square inch, namely about five times the density that Toshiba's currently selling drives can brag about.
Such a density is possible because the procedure places individual bits on litographed “islands” of magnetic material, and this protects each bit's charge, allowing said sectors to be far smaller than would otherwise be possible.
The hardware maker even reportedly demonstrated a working prototype of this technology, but the industry may have to wait a while before actual working products come out.
Since the technique is still in its beginning stages, it will take years for hard drives that use it to enter the market.
In fact, Toshiba does not see anything interesting happening on this front before 2013, which means that solid state drives still have some time to try and lessen the capacity gap, even if only slightly.
What remains to be seen is just what kind of performance hard disk drives of this type will have and whether companies will actually be able to drive maximum capacities even higher.