Seagate Technology thinks the storage capacity could be larger in tablets, most of which come with a relatively small amount of native storage.
So the company is making high-capacity drives that may land as early as this year in tablets, which currently rely on the cloud for services, entertainment and storage, said Pat O'Malley, chief financial officer at Seagate, during a speech at Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco on Monday.
"There will be devices other than the [Chromebook] that you'll see -- tablets -- that have drives in it," O'Malley said. "In a compute device you'll really want that disk drive."
He didn't mention any specific tablet brands that may use Seagate's drives.
Seagate sells a 500GB ultramobile hard drive, which is 5 millimeters thick and can fit easily into a tablet.
Most tablets and Chromebooks today have 8GB or 16GB of storage, just about enough to handle basic workloads, like browsing the Web and running mobile apps. Tablet users largely rely on external hard drives for storage, but O'Malley said there is an opportunity for Seagate in tablets that focus on performance.
"I think you'll see it this year, but I think that's going to be more of a journey," he said. "We're very engaged with the OEMs on how to make that solution very attractive to the end consumer."
Apple's iPad Air has a maximum of 128GB of storage. Microsoft's Surface 2 Pro offers 512GB of solid-state drive storage but is considered more of a laptop replacement. Putting hard drives in tablets and Internet-connected laptops like Chromebooks is not economically viable for Seagate because of low device prices.
Hard drives draw more power than flash drives and SSDs, which could hurt their acceptance in tablets. Archos is one of the few companies that have experimented with hard drives in tablets. Its Archos 101 G9 tablet has a 250GB hard drive.
People end up buying an external drive for about 40 percent of tablets, while the percentage for notebooks is about 10 percent, O'Malley said.
Seagate also sees a growth opportunity in the cloud, and is selling a larger portion of drives to Web services and cloud companies as more data is generated.
"By 2020, we do believe well more than half the storage will be sitting in clouds, whether it's personal or public," O'Malley said.
There's also a growing need for more storage in all kinds of devices and home networks. Seagate later this year will launch a service that will bring together data from disparate storage devices into a personal cloud.
"It's all about video, it's all about content. Folks are generating more and more of that. Managing that across your ecosystem is going to become more and more important," O'Malley said.