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Western Digital Turns To Consumers For Product Ideas

3/08/2006 10:33:00 AM Eastern

New York - Western Digital started selling its newest pair of external had drives at Best Buy with nationwide distribution starting at the end of March.

The Premium and Essential hard drives are part of the company’s My Book line and incorporate a new industrial design and packaging to appeal to a new class of consumer that Western Digital refers to as “Tech Positive,” said Sherri Besser, senior director of marketing. These consumers differ from the techies who had been the primary storage buyers in that they do not care how the technology operates, just that it works.

To discover what the Tech Positive customer wanted in an external drive Western Digital commissioned its first consumer research study.

“We did a lot of research to find what people want in a hard drive. This is something new for Western Digital. Products used to be internally developed and then presented to the public,” she said.

What the company discovered was consumers want storage devices that are intuitive to use, emotionally appealing in appearance and are secure. The latter issue has gained a great deal of importance lately, Besser added, because people are spending a great deal of money buying music and want to be assured that it is safe.

The Premium and Essential drives have a flat-black color scheme, a smooth curved metal enclosure, a new user interface that resembles the Microsoft Media Center look, and software that automatically loads onto a PC from the drive when it is installed, part of Western Digital’s ease of use initiative.

The Premium model comes in 160GB, 250GB, 320GB, 400GB and 500GB capacities. Each is bundled with Western Digital’s backup and recovery software, Google’s Picassa, Desktop and Toolbar applications and are equipped with USB and 1394 ports.

One new feature has visual representation of the drive’s capacity. Surrounding the power button on the front are two blue LED circles. The inner one has six segments which light up in turn as the drive is filled with data, Besser said.

The Essentials line is simply a stripped down version of the Premium models. It replaces the Premium’s metal enclosure with plastic and only has a USB connection and it drops some of the software. An 80GB version is included in the Essentials line.

Prices for the Premium SKUs now selling at Best Buy are $199, 250GB; $249, 320GB and $299, 400GB. The Essential 160GB drive is priced at $129.

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