In response, Mr. Whitmore returned to his comment that emphasis is being placed on taking features off the hard drive. Sticking to the minimum sophistication needed could boost manufacturing efficiency, because backing off on the technology can get the yields up and the cost down at a faster rate. But while need for continued lower cost drives removing features on the one hand, on the other hand applications still exist that require higher processor speed. This “bifurcation,” he said, indicated that there was a business model for both paths.
Dr. Siegle added that, if enough bandwidth becomes available to link the systems that are being used only 5 percent of the time, the potential computing resource will be enormous. He saw the gating issues as getting adequate bandwidth to those systems and people being comfortable with others using their unused cycles.
Dr. Spencer observed that manufacturing of hard drives had moved almost entirely out of the United States and that semiconductor manufacturing was rapidly following along the same path, with foundries, most of which are abroad, taking more of the business. He asked whether, as that occurs, American universities will attract people to work in those areas who will be able to provide the kind of capability that Dr. Siegle described and that Mr. Whitmore indicated are already available in the magnetic storage area.
Mr. Whitmore answered in the affirmative, saying that although Seagate moved its manufacturing offshore long ago, he had not seen any lack of need in the United States for technologists in design, research, or manufacturing, and he did not anticipate that changing. While the need for higher-level skill sets in the magnetic storage industry had been flat, it had by no means tapered off.
In contrast, Dr. Siegle called attracting enough U.S. students into university programs that are relevant to the semiconductor industry a 20-year-old problem. “Somehow we’ve managed to deal with that adequately,” he said, but he added that “the hazard here has been that we have become dependent on foreign nationals who are coming to our universities, being trained, joining our work force, and it’s becoming increasingly attractive for them to go back home.” A certain level of capability needs to be retained in the U.S. if its firms are to remain on the leading edge of the business.
inferior quality compared to the huge, scale-intensive basic oxygen furnace steel making of leading Japanese producers. But the minimill trajectory evolved, becoming more and more capable and competitive with traditional steel-making techniques, eventually disrupting a large chunk of the steel market.