Seagate Gets More Savvy With External Drives

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on September 15, 2008

About 18 months ago, hard drive maker Seagate tried to make a big push to sell more external storage to consumers by introducing its FreeAgent line. They flopped. People hated the software, couldn’t figure out why they needed to back up digital memories and balked at the high prices.
Now the company is back with a revamped lineup that takes a few lessons from that first attempt with a second generation of FreeAgent drives.
The biggest improvement? Seagate has finally seen the light and realized it can capture an increasingly influential segment of the market: Apple fans. For the first time it is offering native support for MacBooks and iMac models. They’re compatible with Apple’s Time Machine backup software, making it a snap to back up files.
I’ve been testing the new 1 TB desktop drive for the past week, and it works like a charm. Seagate took its focus group testing to heart and lets you hook the FreeAgent up to a Firewire 400 or 800 port, saving those precious USB connectors on the Mac for other things. My 24-inch iMac immediately recognized the drive and asks if you want to use it for Time Machine.
The desktop drives even fit into the Apple aesthetic, with a silver casing and white accents (dumped the brown casing with amber accent lights). And it’s quite a bit cheaper than Apple’s comparable 1 TB Time Capsule drive, at less than $300 compared to $499.
The FreeAgent Go laptop models come in four colors for PC users—silver, black, red, and blue—and only silver for Mac users (though the Mac users get a nifty dock included their purchase, while pc users must purchase it as a add-on).
Seagate also says it has improved its pc Seagate Manager software, which received the thumbs down from users in its earlier incarnation. The Seagate drives also sport better power efficiency, the option to encrypt stored data and come with hefty five-year limited warranties. The drives are expected on store shelves by October.
As for convincing consumers that they actually should back up their photos, music and other important files, the company plans to launch a long-awaited print, online and television ad campaign in coming weeks to boost awareness and show how simple it is to use their products.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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