I’ve been around long enough to remember when the tape format wars were among the more interesting skirmishes in the storage industry. Remember LTO vs. DLT, DAT vs. AIT, 8mm vs. QIC, Stones vs. Beatles?

Today, the LTO tape format commands 87.2% of the tape cartridge market (excluding mainframe-oriented formats), according to tape media market research from the Santa Clara Consulting Group (SCCG). In the fourth quarter of 2010, revenue from LTO tape cartridges was about $182 million, vs. $209 million for the total tape cartridge market.

The surge in shipments of LTO cartridges is due in large part to the popularity of the newest generation of the format – LTO-5. Shipments of LTO-5 cartridges doubled in Q4 vs. Q3 (as was the case in Q3 vs. Q2), accounting for 10% of total cartridge sales and 25% of total revenue.

Even shipments of LTO-4 tape cartridges were up in the fourth quarter, representing 48% of total unit shipments and 24% of revenues.

At its current rate of market share gains, LTO will command more than 90% of the tape cartridge market by the end of this year.

HP led the LTO media market with a 34% market share, followed by Fujifilm and IBM, according to SCCG.

Near the end of last year, the LTO Program vendors (HP, IBM and Quantum) claimed that more than 3.3 million LTO tape drives, and more than 150 million LTO cartridges, have been shipped since the format was introduced.

Shipments of all other tape formats – including DDS/DAT, DLT, AIT, QIC and 8mm — continued their ongoing declines. However, revenue from QIC cartridges – the oldest of the mid-range tape formats – still exceeded $1.8 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

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