Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) is betting it can grab part of the growing market for replacement computer storage by selling memory chips drives directly to consumers, backed by an unconventional marketing effort.
The world’s second-largest chipmaker, based in Suwon, South Korea, is promoting so-called SSDs -- solid-state drives -- as replacements for hard disks since they’re less vulnerable to shock, transmit information faster and use less energy, prolonging battery life in a laptop.
The market for drives sold directly to consumers to upgrade existing personal computers is set to grow 125 percent this year, estimates Chris Geiser, a Samsung marketing manager.
“The word of mouth behind SSD is turning it into that aspirational technology,” Geiser said. “We are seeing a massive increase in sales.”
To promote its product, Samsung sent a team of computer geeks -- with cameras -- to England, France and Germany in a converted ambulance to ambush pedestrians with offers to upgrade their laptops to SSDs for free. They managed to overcome an overexcited dog, their one word of French “ordinateur” (computer) and the glumness of English shoppers in Watford to persuade 42 laptop owners to hand over their machines for an on- the-spot upgrade.
The effort is also part of a wider push to drive sales of computer components as the PC industry threatens to grind to a halt this year. The SSD market will grow to $6.2 billion this year, up 24 percent from $5 billion last year, according to market forecaster IDC Corp. That’s faster than the 2.7 percent growth in personal computers expected by Gartner Inc.
“We’ve already seen a strong first half,” said Gartner Inc. analyst Joe Unsworth. “Now that we’re getting to more palatable price points it makes sense for them to ratchet up their marketing.”
Part of Samsung’s message is that SSDs can breathe new life into their aging computers. When the roving geeks convinced people to part with their machines, they whisked it off to transfer the data off the old hard drive and installed the new SSD. They then captured the reaction of owners as their laptops booted up at faster speeds.
For years, makers of so-called Nand-flash memory chips -- the kind of memory at the heart of Samsung’s drives -- have been touting the chips as the future of storage in computers. Consumers and PC makers haven’t jumped on the technology because the chip-based drives cost more and offer less storage.
One of Samsung’s current 128-gigabyte SSDs sells for $120 on electronics component retail website Newegg.com. The same amount of money will buy a 2-terabyte hard drive from Western Digital Corp. (WDC:US) or Seagate Technology Plc (STX:US) on the same website.
Samsung’s new drives have even had a makeover with the addition of sleek, textured cases to make them feel more like consumer products. Just over half of SSDs sold two years ago were replacements, according to Gartner. That proportion dipped to 42 percent last year and the researcher said it will fall to 35 percent this year as SSDs become mainstream and are increasingly pre-installed on computers.
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