IT used to be said that if the old-style Hewlett-Packard sold Sushi, its marketing department would have named it “cold, dead fish”.
Perhaps those people are now working for Seagate. The company’s 5GB USB 2.0 Pocket Hard Drive is a great product with an obvious market, but with a snappier name it could be a huge hit.
Ask yourself this: would that product be such a phenomenon if Apple called it the 5GB USB 2.0 Pocket Music Player? I think not.
The comparison is relevant because under the bonnet the Seagate’s drive is much the same as an iPod.
It is packed in a smartly designed 67mm circular case that also contains a short (130mm), retractable USB cable. Inside the box is a tiny, iPod-style, 1-inch hard drive.
Although the drive can be used like an iPod to store music — Seagate specifically mentions this application on the product packaging — it’s not a music player as such. For example, there’s no play-back facility or headphone socket.
Strictly speaking it’s a small, self-powered, external hard drive. Functionally it acts more like a USB memory key, albeit with considerably more storage capacity than solid state devices. More importantly, Seagate offers a competitive cost per GB. The local price is $292 excluding GST, so to the consumer that works out at roughly $66 per gigabyte.
Seagate’s 5GB provides enough storage for most everyday business users to carry all their important files with them. There is enough room to store huge PowerPoint presentations, tons of multimedia and hours of video. Of course, a rewritable DVD can do exactly the same thing, but the Pocket Drive is faster, requires no special hardware and is more reliable.
While the 130mm cable is fine for laptops and front-mounted USB ports, it’s a bit tricky to use with conventional rear-mounted USB ports on a PC tower case. Otherwise the ergonomics are spot-on. In use the unit is robust enough to tote around in a briefcase or backpack. Manufacturers will one day pack 5GB of flash memory into USB keys, but at present, solid state devices max out at 2GB and few brands on sale in New Zealand offer more than 1GB. Presumably, by then Seagate will have figured out how to pack more data on a magnetic drive. Eventually mechanical drives will give way to solid state, but for now, Seagate has the edge.