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There are a lot of battles brewing in tech, and most of them have been outlined on these pages.

You have Microsoft ( MSFT) vs. Google ( GOOG) (and now Sun Microsystems ( SUNW)) in software and search; you have Sirius ( SIRI) vs. XM Satellite ( XMSR) in satellite radio, then you have Sirius and XM Satellite vs. the broadcast radio world, and you have competing high-definition DVD standards, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD.

All these battles will be waged over the coming months and years, and have no clear winner. However, the Street appears to have chosen, prematurely, a winner in another battle -- flash memory vs. hard drives -- and that has created an opportunity to take the other side of the trade.

Shares of flash makers such as SanDisk ( SNDK) are clearly outperforming those of hard-drive makers such as Seagate Technology ( STX). In fact, SanDisk has doubled since July, while Seagate is down 18% during the same period. This underperformance of hard-drive makers has created a compelling entry point in Seagate, which was recently trading at $15.88.

Seagate is my top pick in the hard-drive space because it is the cheapest in the sector, and it often beats its competitors to market with new products.

With the stock down 8% year to date and 25% off of its 52-week high, Seagate is trading at just 8 times forward earnings estimates vs. 10.5 times for competitor Western Digital ( WDC) and 30 times for SanDisk. This implies that investors don't expect Seagate to fall short of the 20%-plus EPS growth analysts are looking for over the next few years. It's trading at just a fraction of its growth rate, and that means value investors may begin to pick away.

It is easy to hand the trophy in this battle to flash memory after Apple's ( AAPL) flash-based iPod nano created an immediate flash memory supply shortage. But hard drives have several critical advantages that could enable their makers to stretch the recent product cycle beyond 2005.

First, hard drives remain considerably cheaper than flash memory. A 100-GB hard drive at a retailer such as Best Buy ( BBY) can be had for $100. The same $100 used to buy a flash memory chip, however, would not be enough to secure even a 2-GB flash card.

Flash tends to prevail in the court of public opinion because it is lighter, and therefore favored for portable electronic devices. While this is true, there are mini-hard drives on the market as well, and to find one you have to look no further than the original iPods. While relative behemoths in size relative to the 2-Gig and 4-Gig nano, these original iPods have 20 GB of storage and sell for just a $50 premium to the nano. That's not much of a difference in price considering the disparity in capacity, and especially when you consider that the nano is only 4.5 ounces lighter than the 20-Gig version.

Second, let's not forget that hard drives are the standard for personal computing. If you were to go out and purchase an equivalent amount of flash memory to an 80-GB hard drive, you would be in the hole for well over $1,000. But you can have an 80-GB laptop using a hard drive complete with software for under $1,000.

Third, while size matters in consumer electronics, it hardly matters in terms of backing up work in people's home offices. There is no cheaper method of backup storage than hard drives in people's home. For $200, the average family of four could buy enough hard-drive storage to save many years worth of files and applications.

Lastly, hard drives are now being installed in televisions to serve as embedded digital video recorders. Wednesday morning, TV giant LG Electronics announced that its new HD Plasma TV will come with a built-in 160-GB Seagate hard drive that has most of the functionality of a TiVo. Until TVs become two-dimensional, there will be room for a hard drive, and the price differential makes hard drives the compelling option for TV manufacturers and consumers.

From a risk/reward standpoint, I think Seagate is the most attractive hard-drive play to benefit from the market's overly pessimistic view of hard drives. Western Digital and Maxtor ( MXO) come in second and third in my view, with Western Digital shares already having made a nice move in the past few quarter, and Maxtor struggling to deliver innovative products and a profit.

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