Google Drive

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Talks are rife that Google will announce its long-awaited Google Drive this week. According to unconfirmed reports that came out in several blogs and technology news websites in the past weeks, Google Drive will offer users five gigabytes of free storage space.

Several tech sites also published screengrabs of a possible Mac application and the download page for the Windows application for the service.

And as with any online drive or cloud storage service worth its space, Google Drive will offer synchronization across devices and folders.

Google consumer products

While the space is just a fifth of the offering of Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Google has the advantage of providing a better user experience in many of its consumer products. Gmail revolutionized e-mail with its big storage offering and groundbreaking features like conversation view. After years of using Gmail, it is now hard and underwhelming to use a mail client or service that does not display conversation view. When it launched, Gmail blew Microsoft’s Hotmail cold. It was pathetic, with Hotmail offering a paltry 2MB when Google launched with a 1GB storage space eight years ago. Size did matter.

Google Talk, which is integrated in Gmail, also improved instant messaging by simplifying it and making it interoperable in various devices.

Google Docs also redefined the way many people used Office programs. With the search giant’s free online documents service, one no longer needed to install Microsoft Office or any other software suite to be able to work with simple documents like letters, write-ups and even spreadsheets and presentations.

Five gigabytes, however, is a generous offering compared with the two gigabytes that come with a free Dropbox account. With 5GB, you can keep 14 episodes of a TV series like “Unforgettable” or “The Finder.” I don’t think you can even fill that up if you store only documents that you write, even for a lifetime. But for those who need more, Google offers paid upgrade of storage space.

I hope the service is really set to launch soon. I can still recall the tech community being abuzz with anticipation of a GDrive launch that never happened a few years back.

Spur competition

I hope Google Drive does to cloud storage what Gmail did to e-mail or Google Talk did to IM. I also hope Google Drive will have a strong mobile capability and include the ability to share files akin to what Dropbox and Box.net offer.

For Google Drive to do well, it should offer seamless interoperability with other Google products like Gmail and Google Docs. And with Google behind Android, it should offer a smooth integration with the mobile operating system.

The entry of Google will spur other cloud storage service providers to ramp up their offerings. Dropbox, for example, already offers regular promotions to get free storage upgrades. I hope they will be offering more of these promotions and making it easier to get added space. Apple’s iCloud already offers an equivalent cloud storage space but does not have a consumer-friendly interface to manage the files. I hope it will start offering that.

A few years back, the diskette became extinct. Later, CD ROMS and DVDs started to get used less in favor of USB drives. In the next few years, people will no longer need to carry physical data storage. Everything will just be out there – in the cloud.

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