Google is gearing up to take to the sky, according to the Wall Street Journal that is. It’s a case of better late than last. While Dropbox has been offering users free cloud storage since 2007, Google considered releasing a cloud drive that year as well. There’s no telling how different the cloud computing game would be if Google had launched their offer four or five years ago.
Google previously contemplated a cloud-storage service. Five years ago, Google co-founder Larry Page, who is now the company’s chief executive, worked with teams of programmers to develop a service, known internally as “G Drive,” to let people store music files and other data online, according to people familiar with the matter. It was set to launch in late 2007 but never did.
Since then, Dropbox, founded in 2007 by two graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has skyrocketed in popularity. As of October 2011, Dropbox had more than 45 million members who saved one billion files every few days. At the time, Dropbox raised $250 million at a reported $4 billion valuation for the company. Dropbox CEO Drew Houston has said the company turned down a “nine-figure” buyout offer from Apple Inc. in 2009
While few would consider Dropbox a Google competitor in any arena other than cloud storage, Apple, on the other hand, is widely considered to be the big G’s greatest adversary. Google and Apple have been trying to one-up one another( and catch-up when the other pulls ahead in a given area) since the Android operating system took hold with consumers across the globe. Now it seems that both companies are looking into one another’s product portfolios when it comes time to debut a new piece of hardware or software. So when Apple open the doors to their iCloud last year, Google undoubtedly doubled down on their efforts to get their Cloud service up and running. However, whereas iCloud only works with users’ iPhones and iPads running iOS software, Google’s Drive will allow users to access their storage on most any device, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets and all types of computers.
Those wondering how well Google will manage a cloud service, or how much they’ll charge for such, can look no further than Google’s current storage options available to Google Docs users. You can bet there will be at least a few gigabytes of free storage, and Google Docs even allows users 1GB of free storage already. There is no way to know exactly what the service will include (or more importantly, what it won’t include), but there is already a short list of competitors with plenty to offer. An article over on Extreme Tech compares the Google Docs storage pricing scheme with that of their competitors.
You might not be aware of this, but Google already offers additional storage space for Docs, Gmail, and Picasa at very competitive prices, starting at $5 per year for 20GB, or $20 per year for 80GB. In comparison, Dropbox is $9.99 per month for 50GB, SugarSync is $4.99 per month for 30GB, and Box.net is $9.99 per month for just 25GB. In short, Google is 10 times cheaper than the competition. There’s no confirmation that Google Drive will use the same pricing structure, but in all likelihood it will.
While Google’s cloud storage options may beat the field in pricing, currently, nothing can beat iCloud in terms of simplicity. Because iCloud lets users set their photos, videos, email, music, etc. to automatically upload into the iCloud, a user’s favorite data is seamlessly available on all of their iOS devices with very little management. If Google hopes to score big with their Drive, they need to ensure that Android users have an equally pleasant experience syncing their files across a wide array of devices. So far, there isn’t much concrete that we know about the service, just that it’s coming. As far as a release date, John Brodkin over at Ars Technica seems to think that Google’s Drive will launch by the end of March.