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The days of buying a pristeen new hard drive with nothing but free space may be coming to an end. Seagate today has announced a plan to bundle motion pictures on new hard drives. “Some” of its 500GB FreeAgent hard drives will come preloaded with 20 recent films from Paramount. To watch them, the user will have to pay $9.99 each for the appropriate unlock code (though as part of the offering, the recent “Star Trek” feature will be unlockable for free).

Motion-picture distributors have gotten awfully clever about getting their content out in recent months. Last summer, Sonic Solutions announced it would sell movies preloaded on USB thumbdrives. Dell will now preload movies and music onto your new laptop, also.

This marks the first time a hard-drive manufacturer has bundled movies with a product.

I’m hesitant to endorse this wholeheartedly, as it pushes us ever closer to the “crapware” menace that infects virtually every new computer sold today, loaded as they are with gigabytes of unwanted programs preinstalled. But in all fairness, hard drives are far easier to reformat and wipe clean than a PC that needs Windows or another operating system and umpteen drivers to run. Still, I hope companies like Seagate will exercise restraint and not overwhelm hard drives so much that they’re virtually full right when you take them out of the box.

More telling in this announcement is how stagnant the hard-drive business has become, with manufacturers recognizing that there’s just not much excitement left in this business. “We think if we are to grow this market, we have to find new uses for hard drives,” says a Seagate VP in the story linked above, and he’s right. Bundling a bunch of movies like “GI Joe” with your drive may not exactly be the answer, but it’s probably on the right track. After all, hard drives are so cheap now that the buying decision could soon become a simple question of what media to get your movie on: Pay $25 for a Blu-ray disc of your movie or drop $50 for a hard drive with it and 19 others already installed.

— Christopher Null is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.


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