Seagate unveils GoFlex swappable interface storage system; will consumers bite?

The age of the interface is over. Seagate's new GoFlex swappable interface storage system attempts to keep standards out of the data storage conversation.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

The age of the interface is over.

Well, almost.

Seagate on Tuesday night unveiled its GoFlex swappable interface storage system, a plug-and-play move to keep interface out of the conversation when it comes to external data storage.

The company has redesigned its FreeAgent Go drive into two pieces: a "bare" drive with a universal SATA slot, and a plug-in interface "tip" that provides one standard of your choosing: USB, FireWire, eSATA, etc.

Need to switch from USB to FireWire? Just swap the tip.

In other words: no longer will you have to shop for an external drive specifically for a PC, or a Mac, or a certain standard. Now you can buy the drive with the knowledge that you can swap out the standard without affecting the data on the actual drive.

The concept is interesting: by dropping the interface standard, you cut out the speed bottleneck that comes with it.

This is not a new idea, of course. But it's the first time a storage vendor is offering it without tacking on a price premium for the convenience.

PC and Mac interoperability is available via an included NTFS driver for Mac OS X. Another perk: a GoFlex Upgrade cable allows for continuous full-system backup.

On paper, the move is smart for Seagate, its partners and its customers.

For Seagate, a swappable interface means it is buffered, to a degree, from the political battle that is the ever-changing standards game (USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 now, USB 3.0 on deck, Light Peak around the corner).

For Seagate's retail partners, that means stores can stock cheaper products to properly address consumer demand.

For consumers, a $30 to $70 interface cable is cheaper than a new drive. Most folks won't swap, but you can if you want to.

My only concerns: that all these options are utterly confusing to the consumer, and that adding a second physical connection allows for a second part to fail.

Nevertheless, the move is a future-proofing move for Seagate as it moves away from simply providing external storage for computers and offering storage for other digitized parts of the home: the television, the network, etc.

Seagate's dream? That one day you'll be able to take these interface-less (read: SATA) drives and slide them into a desktop slot, or a slot in your television, or your router.

The company is already moving in this direction. Its GoFlex TV HD media player allows you to slide in a GoFlex drive to watch movies (it also supports Netflix, YouTube, MediaFly, and Picasa), and the GoFlex Net media sharing device allows you to make your local GoFlex storage available across the network and beyond it, powered by Pogoplug for no extra charge.

(In a demo, a Seagate representative displayed images from his hard drive on an iPad.)

Capacities for the new FreeAgent GoFlex drives range from 320GB to 2TB, with prices from $100 to $200.

Here's the rundown:

GoFlex ultra portable drives (14.5mm and 22mm sizes) with USB 2.0 cable:

  • $99.99 for 320GB [silver, black]
  • $129.99 for 500GB (silver, black, red, blue)
  • $169.99 for 750GB [silver and black]
  • $199.99 for 1TB [silver, black]

GoFlex ultra portable drives, drive-only:

  • $89.99 for 320GB [silver, black]
  • $119.99 for 500GB [silver, black, red, blue]
  • $159.99 for 750GB [silver and black]
  • $189.99 for 1TB [silver, black]

GoFlex Pro ultra portable drive kit (7200RPM, 2.5? drive, encryption, USB 2.0 cable)

  • $139.99 for 500GB
  • $189.99 for 750GB [black]

GoFlex Pro ultra portable drive, drive-only:

  • $129.99 for 500GB
  • $179.99 for 750GB [black]

GoFlex Desk external drive kit (automatic, continuous encrypted backup, USB 2.0 cable)

  • $129.99 for 1TB [black]
  • $199.99 for 2TB [black]

GoFlex Desk external drive, drive-only:

  • $119.99 for 1TB [black]
  • $189.99 for 2TB [black]

GoFlex Cables and Adapters:

  • USB 2.0: $19.99.
  • Upgrade cable, USB 3.0: $29.99
  • GoFlex Upgrade cable kit, USB 3.0 (includes ExpressCard adapter): $79.99
  • GoFlex Upgrade cable, FireWire 800: $39.99
  • GoFlex Upgrade cable kit, eSATA: $19.99
  • GoFlex Upgrade cable, auto backup: $29.99
  • GoFlex Desk Desktop adapter, USB 3.0: $39.00.
  • GoFlex Desk Desktop adapter kit, USB 3.0: $79.00
  • GoFlex Desk Desktop adapter, FireWire 800/USB 2.0: $49.99

GoFlex Storage System Devices:

  • GoFlex TV HD media player: $129.99
  • GoFlex Net media sharing device: $99.99
  • GoFlex Intelligent dock: $29.99

The drives are available now.

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