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Seagate--where Deadheads meet hard drives

Seagate Technology CEO Bill Watkins doesn't fit the usual "captain of industry" mold. He was a self-described screwup in his teens. He then joined the Army and only subsequently went to college because he realized going through life as an enlisted man was no bargain.

He's also a big fan of the Grateful Dead and owns a couple of guitars once owned by Jerry Garcia.

"I used to follow them around all the time in a truck in Texas," he said in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show. Who knows, you may have twirled into him accidentally during a drum solo.

Watkins is at the show to kick off a new branding campaign for Seagate. The hard-drive maker will soon begin to launch ads in lifestyle magazines and on the Internet to convince consumers to back up their data, with the focus on teaching people why they need storage.

Seagate also came out with a line of fashion-conscious portable hard drives at the show. Some of the FreeAgent drives will automatically back up data on your main drive and automatically post photos or videos to the Web, eliminating that hassle of having to go to Shutterfly yourself to upload them.

"Your content is your life. If I lose a spreadsheet, it's no big deal. But if I lose my vacation pictures, it's a big crisis," Watkins said.

The challenge is making sure all of the backup services and posting services work automatically, or at least at the touch of a button.

Seagate learned the importance of simplicity a few years ago, when it came out with a hockey puck-sized line of portable drives. The main complaint from customers was that they couldn't figure out how to plug in their head phones.

"They thought it was an MP3 player," Watkins said.