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Seagate (s STX) is introducing a new line of external drives dubbed GoFlex today that is in many ways a direct response to the way people use storage for video. The drives themselves come with a modular cable system that allows end users to quickly change from a USB2 interface to ESATA to Firewire, and vice versa.
However, turning external drives into a modular, platform-independent component is more than just a nice way to sell some extra cables: Company representatives told me today that they eventually envision DVR and set-top box makers supporting the interface in order to give consumers the ability to easily add storage without worrying about plugs and formats.
The first device that makes use of this is actually produced by Seagate itself: The GoFlex TV HD media player, which will ship by the end of the month and allow users to watch local content from a connected hard drive as well as access Netflix (s NFLX), YouTube (s GOOG) and locally shared content. This device is competing with a number of existing products already on the market, but Seagate has thought about a few nifty ways to appeal to sneakernet video lovers.
The GoFlex TV comes with two USB ports for legacy storage as well as Flip cameras or anything else you might use to capture or store video. It also uses Seagate’s new GoFlex interface, which is essentially just a SATA port packaged into a nice enclosure bay. Users that also own a GoFlex drive would shove it into the front-loading slot to access the media stored on the drive.
The device supports a number of different video codecs and container formats including DivX (s DIVX) HD and .MKV. Got an ISO of a DVD ripped to your hard drive? No problem, GoFlex TV will not only play the image, but actually allow you to utilize the DVD menu — something that should appeal to the file sharing crowd as well as people who love to back up their own DVD collection.
GoFlex TV also features Netflix as well as a few other media apps, and I was told today by Seagate that they’re thinking about providing an SDK to third-party developers to add their own apps in the future. The device can play local as well as remotely hosted 1080p content, and offers HDMI as well as composite outputs.
The idea of offering similar bay options for GoFlex drives to other companies is pretty interesting. Essentially, this could be a way to offer a new standard that could be used by companies like Boxee or Roku to ship cheap boxes and leave it up to the consumer to add third-party drives. SATA is an open standard, and Seagate representatives told me that they’re going to offer any further licenses needed to accommodate the drives for free.
GoFlex drives are available immediately, and the GoFlex TV will be available later this month.
Related content on GigaOm Pro: The Paradox of Thinking Outside the (Set-Top) Box (subscription required)