Seagate Launches Consumer Lineup With 5 Year Warranty At CES 2007


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Seagate is aiming to grab a larger slice of the exploding consumer storage market with the launch of a sleek new line of "FreeAgent" take your data anywhere storage devices backed up by what may be the first ever five year warranty in the storage industry.

The new FreeAgent line, unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2007) in Las Vegas, is the first shot in a massive rebranding effort aimed at positioning Seagate as the cool company for the digital lifestyle consumer. The rebranding represents a significant shift by the company to dominate the consumer storage market, said Seagate President Dave Wickersham.

"We know that the vast majority of our future growth is going to come from consumers," said Seagate president and chief operating officer Dave Wickersham. "Clearly the consumer is going to fuel the demand for storage going forward." All of the new FreeAgent data mover products come with software that allows consumers to maintain their laptop and desktop settings including passwords and e-mail and instant messaging functionality.

Wickersham said the Seagate rebranding is a "big bang" shift that heralds a cool new image for the storage giant. He said the rebranding opens the door for digital integrators to "exploit the insatiable demand for storage solutions" from the digital lifestyle consumer.

The smallest and sleekest of the lineup is a FreeAgent Go Small unit that packs a whopping 12 Gigabytes into a device a little bigger than a business card for a suggested retail price of $139.99.

The company's new FreeAgent Go product set, meanwhile, plugs into any USB 2.0 port for mobile access to a user's full computing environment. That product set is priced starting at $129.99 for an 80 gigabyte product to $189.99 for a 160 gigabyte product.

The FreeAgent Desktop data mover ups the ante even further with a 250 gigabyte unit that is priced starting at $149.99 all the way up to a 500 gigabyte unit priced at $249.99.

Seagate's top of the line offering, the FreeAgent Pro data mover, which supports both USB 2.0 and eSATA, is priced starting at $199.99 for a 320 gigabyte product to $399.999 for a 750 Gigabyte product. The FreeAgent Pro line also includes a six month free subscription to back up up to 500 Mbytes of data online.

The FreeAgent line will be available through Seagate distributors and retailers beginning in February.

Wickersham said the new five year warranty will apply to both the company's Seagate brand and all new Maxtor products, which continue as a separate brand after the Seagate acquired Maxtor last year. The five year warranty makes the "choice of a Seagate solution that much easier," said Wickersham. "This is unparalleled. I think the warranties right now range from one to three years."

Tim Ulmen, product manager/sales for MidWest IT Solutions Group, a Wichita, Kan., solution provider, said the five year warranty will make it an easier sell for solution providers. "That five year warranty is peace of mind for the consumer," said Ulmen. "The longer the better. That's going to have a positive impact."

Ulmen also praised Seagate's decision to more aggressively attack the consumer market. "If hard drives are all they do, at the end of the day it's going to be hard for them to continue to grow," he said. "They need to gobble up whatever storage market share they can."

Ulmen said he is also interested in Seagate's 1-Terabyte hard drive, which is expected to ship in the first half of this year, as a potential option for a digital media server. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies beat Seagate to the punch and is showing its 1 Terabyte drive at the Consumer Electronics show. The $399 Hitachi product is set to ship in March.

Wickersham said the Seagate 1 Terabyte hard drive is another sign of the company's commitment to meet the voracious storage appetite of consumers. "To me this is so exciting because it says you will not be limited by storage capacity," he said. "If you're like me or my children and you want to record not only your movies, but video and home family experiences. I think you can imagine with HDTV the ability to eventually use that (1 Terabyte) capacity. Look at the price, performance and cost per gigabyte and it is awesome."

Wickersham said Seagate's recent spate of acquisitions, including its $185 million purchase of backup managed service provider EVault in December, are aimed at transforming Seagate into a full storage solution company. "We want to be more of a solutions company," he said. "These acquisitions are very complimentary and logical extensions. It allows us to establish ourselves as a full service provider not just a maker of disk drives."

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