It's no longer just enough to make a faster, roomier chunk of hardware. I've been trying some new external hard drives from Seagate that are designed to back up the valuable photos, videos, and documents from my PC. And while the hardware is indeed faster and bigger, it's clear that Seagate is diving deeper into the software business, writing programs to go with the disks. The same is true of other drive makers, including Western Digital and newcomer Fabrik.
The Maxtor OneTouch 4 drives (starting at about $100) come with the fourth generation of OneTouch software, which was designed to make backup as simple as pushing a button. The software now has a slicker look and added capability, such as new encryption that would appeal mostly to businesses. The software also includes a separate "rescue" CD for restoring a completely crashed system. That's something that I'd expect with the more sophisticated backup software that came from companies like Symantec or EMC.
Seagate bought Maxtor last year and, with it, got a team of software engineers who had helped develop the original OneTouch drives. The emphasis on software is moving the company beyond simple data closets, says Jim Druckrey, a Seagate senior vice president. "'Storage' sounds passive, inactive, almost cold," he says. Instead, Seagate sees itself as helping move data, either for safekeeping or for sharing. "We want to think of ourselves as being in the transport business."