Why Aren’t SSDs Popular in New PCs?

Fry's Electronics PC adFor the past decade I have been asked when SSDs will overtake HDDs in the PC market- when will more PCs ship with an SSD than with an HDD?

My usual reply is: “Never!”  I then go on to explain that two factors work against this ever happening.  The first is the fact that SSD prices are unlikely to ever match HDD price per gigabyte, which is the subject of a few posts on The SSD Guy, the most recent appearing HERE.  The second reason is that most PC buyers find SSDs unappealing when they are shopping for a new PC because of the price difference between an SSD and an HDD of the same capacity.

There are six parameters that users consider when purchasing a PC, and they are usually presented in the following order in PC advertisements:

  • Price
  • Brand of PC
  • Processor
  • Memory size
  • HDD capacity
  • Screen size

Look at any ad for a PC and that’s what you will see, in that order.  You can see it in the ad in this post’s graphic (click to enlarge).  This one from Fry’s Electronics is particularly old, dating back to 2010, but today’s PC ads aren’t any different.  I have been using this graphic in my presentations since 2010 to illustrate this point.

The processor used to be selected by its clock speed, but once clock speeds reached their ceiling then branding took over.  This wasn’t an easy conversion – AMD and Intel spent tens of millions of dollars and most of a decade to convince buyers that clock speed was no longer the criterion they should use to choose the processor in their PC.  Consumers were actually trained to look at processor speed up to that point, so it took a lot of effort to undo what these same companies had put in place.

I present these six parameters when explaining why most new PCs don’t sell with SSDs.  The price and HDD capacity bullets act against each other.  There is no “Fast Boot” bullet, or a bullet to show performance.  Performance is implied by processor brand and memory size.

Few purchasers consult (or even understand) the bounty of benchmarks available on the web.  These don’t garner the attention of the countless doctors, accountants, insurance agents, teachers, and other less-technical professionals (and non-professionals) who purchase new PCs.

This is a case where buying patterns may not be rational, but they are certainly strong.

The buyer might compare two systems, both of which retail for $500:  One has a 500GB drive and the other a 128GB drive.  Guess which one looks like a better deal, even though the first has an HDD and the other an SSD?  Alternatively, a consumer may compare two PCs with 500GB and 512GB drives: The first costs $500 and the other $700.  From the casual purchaser’s viewpoint that extra 12GB of storage certainly carries a hefty price adder!  Why not just purchase the 500GB model?

Let’s pretend that SSD makers will decide to do “Whatever it takes” to educate users on the advantages of SSDs to teach them that it is really worthwhile to spend the extra money, or to consider a PC with a lower-capacity SSD instead of one with a higher-capacity HDD.  How much effort would be involved?

Judging from AMD’s and Intel’s campaigns to move the consumer’s focus away from clock speeds I would guess that it would cost tens of millions of dollars and take about a decade to accomplish.

Is this likely to happen?  I highly doubt it!

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