Seagate aims to make common hard drives uncommonly artistic

Seagate's new drives have mirror-like sheens and expensive wooden stands

As cloud storage and SSDs threaten to make hard drives an afterthought, Seagate's LaCie division has decided to make storage an art form.

The $US280 LaCie Mirror takes a 1 terabyte external hard drive and encases it in Gorilla Glass 3, more commonly found in smartphones. And in a truly dramatic twist, it perches on a piece of ebony wood imported from Indonesia.

As consumers increasingly back up their data to local SSDs and to cloud storage located elsewhere, one might wonder why consumers should continue investing in hard drives. Seagate's answer is to make its external hard drives conversation pieces, while trying to replace cloud storage with a local product.

Why this matters: We've recommended you rip out your hard drive and replace it with a flash-based SSD for a year or more now. But Seagate would still like you to remember that uploading a few dozen gigabytes of photos and movies to a cloud services takes time. Is that a compelling enough argument, or as venture capitalist Fred Wilson argued, did we truly "kill off the file" in 2014, replacing it with social networks and streaming services?

A bevy of drives

At CES, Seagate launched the LaCie Mirror, alongside:

  • The Seagate Personal Cloud, a local hard drive that either streams to tablets or smart TVs, or provides a local copy of what you have backed up in cloud services like Google Drive;
  • A battery-powered Seagate Wireless drive, a $US130 500GB hard drive that can stream to up to three devices simultaneously;
  • And the Seagate Seven: a steel-encased $US100 500GB external drive designed to mimic a bare drive. Seagate claims it's the thinnest external drive ever, at just 7 mm thick.

Seagate has found itself overtaken in recent years by Western Digital in terms of revenue and market share; WD now ships about 45 per cent of the world's hard drives. Seagate's mission is now to lead in terms of "clever" design, the company said.

In that, the LaCie Mirror and Seagate Seven lead Seagate's efforts. The Mirror's mirror finish may be superfluous -- even if the glass doesn't shatter, dropping a hard drive on a hard surface is bad news -- but the design is certainly eye-catching. Both the Mirror and Seven connect using USB 3.0, a Seagate spokesman said.

"You have to look twice to discover the LaCie Mirror's true ambition," said Pauline Deltour, the French designer who helped design the Mirror. "Covered by mirrored glass, it's first an elegant and functional object, and only on second glance is it revealed to be a slim high-performance hard drive."

Head in the cloud

Seagate's wireless drives also recognize the fact that more and more people are storing their files in the cloud--and yet, when it comes time to stream a large file to a local PC, most balk at the time and effort to do so. Seagate already ships a 500GB Wireless Plus drive for $US150; at $US130, the new one's just a trifle cheaper, and the wireless performance has improved. It will ship in early February.

And at one time, we might have called a product like the new Seagate Personal Cloud a NAS drive and been done with it; as more and more devices are becoming connected, however, wirelessly connected drives are gaining acceptance. Seagate hasn't what it will charge for the Personal Cloud, with single-drive configurations from 3 to 5 terabytes, and dual-drive (RAID 0, 1) configs from 4, 6, and 8 terabytes. They will ship later this month.

"Given the abundance of handheld computing devices there has been a trend of accessing content and content via cloud storage," said Stephen Baker, vice president at the NPD Group, in a statement.

Like the existing WD MyCloud line, Seagate's Personal Cloud uses a free Seagate Media app to securely access music, videos, and documents from the drive. You can stream to most smart TVs and Blu-ray players from LG or Samsung; to Roku, Google Chromecast, or AppleTV; and to iOS and Android phones and tablets, including the Amazon Kindle.

You can also set the drive to backup its contents to Amazon S3, Box, Baidu, Dropbox, Google Drive, and more; or else take what you've uploaded to that drive and store a local copy. Seagate also says that apps can run on the drive itself, including WordPress and BitTorrent Sync.

The hard drive industry has seen a shift from local drives tucked inside a PC to massive amounts of storage whirring away anonymously insider servers. But Seagate is hoping to make hard drives sexy again by giving local storage all the bells and whistles of cloud storage, while simultaneously placing control of your data back into your own hands..

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Tags Googlestoragenetwork-attached storagehard drivesnashddLaCieDrivesCES 2015

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Mark Hachman

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