With rumours and reports of some sort of Google cloud service circulating for the better part of six years now, the search engine giant finally unveiled Google Drive yesterday. Ostensibly a digital drop box, Google’s response to Apple’s iCloud will allow users to seamlessly store and share files online, making all such shared information available on any device running Android, Windows, Mac OS X, and “in coming weeks,” iOS as well.
As yet another step towards creating seamless digital integration for our ever-expanding constantly-connected lifestyle, the cloud service exists as yet another arm to Google’s growing body of digital tools, and to that end, Drive has a distinct advantage over its competitors, as out of the gate it will feature deep integration with current Google tools like Gmail, Google+, Google Docs, and other services.
While some may scoff at yet another Google product that turns the masses into “eyeballs for advertising”, Google Drive also marks a distinct philosophical shift for the company, as Google will actually charge users for the service.
As I mentioned, at its core Google Drive is ostensibly a digital drop box, looking a lot like its new cloud competitor of the same name, Dropbox. Once the user installs the requisite software on a device running a compatible OS that device gets a special Google Drive folder that automatically syncs with a folder online. Then, whenever the user saves, copies, or creates a new file in the folder, it will automatically be replicated on all other synced devices.
“You can take all your data, regardless of which device you’re on, and make it seamlessly available to you,” said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Google’s Chrome and Apps projects. “We want you to think of this as the center of your Google apps experience.” Again, at its core it is simply just a straight forward consumer cloud service with deep integration to Gmail and other Google services.
While Google does offer a basic barebones 5GB storage capacity version of its cloud Drive service for free, the company has also ventured into relatively new territory, attaching its cloud revenue stream directly to the service itself. Unlike Android and almost every other Google service, which generates revenue for the search engine giant through advertising, Google Drive comes with a price structure, offering users 25 GB for $2.49 a month, 100GB for $4.99 a month (not surprisingly via Google Wallet) or if you’re a data glutton, $50 a month for 1TB or even $800 per month for 16 TB.
There’s no question in my mind that Google Drive will be a hit among those who like simplicity and deep integration among various things like email, document writers, and social networking, but don’t expect the search engine’s cloud service to be an instant hit. As it stands, the cloud market is actually quite crowded, with the likes of DropBox, SugarSync, Mozy’s Stash, Apple’s iCloud, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Yandex, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive all present or soon to be present in that space.
But again, where users have to work to integrate any such cloud service into their current digital existence, Google is pushing the fact that integrating Google Drive will be a seamless process, as the company has worked hard over the past year to create one unified user experience. Whether that’s enough to eek out a share of the cloud market, however, remains to be seen.