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Google Drive is real: here’s what it means

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Sundar Pichai, SVP, Chrome and Apps, Google (left) and Scott Johnston, Group Product Manager, Google (right)

Do you want to put about 16 terabytes of data online? If you do, you might want to give Google (s goog) a call. Mind you, it isn’t going to be cheap — that amount of storage will cost about $800 a month. On Tuesday, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is taking the covers off its much hyped and long awaited online storage service, and it will be called Google Drive. It is available at The Drive, which starts with 5 GB of free storage, is available to anyone with a Google account, including Google Apps for business accounts. In March 2012 I had first reported that Google would be launching its Drive with 1 GB of storage space in first week of April 2012. Well, I was off by two weeks and 4 GB per account of storage capacity.

The new service will be accessible from a Web browser along with different client devices including Mac OS X, Windows and Android devices (tablets and phones). The iOS version of the Drive will arrive soon, the company says. The first 5 GB are free, but every additional 25 GB is going to cost you about $2.50 a month or about $30 a year. The 100 GB will cost you $5 a month or about $60 a year. You can buy up to 16 terabytes of storage capacity. The Drive marries elements of Dropbox, iCloud and other popular apps such as Evernote.


At first blush, it might seem the Google Drive imitates Dropbox’s many features. However, the key differentiation point for Google Drive is the tight integration with Google’s productivity apps and other apps that are using Google’s SDK to build the Drive into their own cloud offerings. For instance, Google’s Drive allows you to seamlessly fax documents via HelloFax’s service. Another service, Balsamic, can help you create wireframes and share them with others. There are about 20 launch partners for Google’s Drive, and they are betting that Drive will bring them the much needed collaboration and sharing features that they currently lack.

Google executives, including Sundar Pichai, SVP, Chrome and Apps, went to extreme lengths in a briefing to point out that they are not operating just another online storage service. “This (Drive) is built around the idea of sharing and collaboration,” said Pichai. “We started from the underpinning of Google Docs and idea of collaboration.”

He went onto argue that as we start to spend more time living in the cloud, what matters to people is the ability to access their data in multiple locations on different screens. Pichai believes that “Drive is a bridge between cloud and local” data. He also believes that companies have to adapt to the BYOD (bring your own device) revolution that is sweeping the enterprises. (Stacey wrote an awesome post yesterday about why BYOD is unstoppable.)

Data anywhere

Start a document in Google Docs and Google Drive will save a local copy on your desktop. But that document is not editable unless you’re online to open these docs using Google Docs, which I find baffling. Sometime in the near future, the company will allow you to select a document and directly mail it using Google’s Gmail service. Google says last-minute bugs are the reason it hasn’t launched Gmail integration. Strangely, the company is offering integration with Google+. Go figure!

When you upload photos Google will use Google Goggles’ technology to look inside the photos and help you discover relevant photos by the search keyword. The OCR technology that has powered the Google Books effort will turn a PDF or a photo of a document into text for you to manipulate. Google isn’t the first company to offer such a service. However, it is the first one to bundle this and other popular features in its offering. (Oh, how very Microsoft of them!)

Of course, as it is Google, everything it does has to be viewed from the lens of search.  “In the post-PC world the file systems don’t matter,” says Pichar. Instead what matters is data, which follows the flow from apps to devices. Pichar says that the key here is to provide context and add contours to all the information stored inside the Drive.

So what does it look like

Google gave me access to the Google Drive yesterday evening, and in whatever little time I had, I would have to say that I didn’t see anything that would cause distress. The web-based version of the Drive looks remarkably similar to the all-too-familiar Google Docs interface.

On the Mac desktop, it was dead simple to install the Drive, much like Dropbox. Once installed the Drive is represented by a folder and synchronizes in the background. The first installation automatically downloads all your Google Docs files to the folder. However, the app really shines when used on the tablets. Maybe it is because I have fewer files, but I found that I was able to access data from Google Drive on iPad a shade quicker than Dropbox, mostly because of better search capabilities.

We run our business on Google Apps for Business and I see Drive a perfect companion. Today we use Dropbox, but the process of sharing happens either on Google Docs, Socialcast or via email. Collaboration is too disjointed and the process is pretty cumbersome. Google Drive however makes it very easy to share and collaborate. I deeply dislike the icons they are using to represent docs and slides. Nevertheless, I have not had enough time to form a strong opinion (either way) about the service. I will write a post after using the service for a week or so.

Oh, it’s on

The pending launch of Google Drive has caused a frenzy of activity in the online storage industry. Dropbox, which currently leads the online storage market, launched a simple file-sharing feature yesterday that would allow them to compete with Google. Later, Microsoft talked about the availability of its SkyDrive personal cloud storage service with about 7 GB of free storage.

By being late to the market, Google has what Peter Thiel calls the “last mover advantage.” And while the new Google Drive is a big threat to and Dropbox, if you ask me, the big target here is Microsoft. With the Drive, Google can start to nibble at Microsoft’s  highly lucrative Sharepoint business.

And while Google Drive’s launch is going to be hard on some of the smaller online storage services, thanks to Google’s massive user base, I wouldn’t count out Microsoft, Box or Dropbox — just yet.

25 Responses to “Google Drive is real: here’s what it means”

  1. Craig


    So I have images stored on Picasa Web and have a music library in iTunes. Is there one entity where I could backup both and recall without drama should I need to? Thanks-Tech novice.

  2. Kfir Pravda

    Om, great post. I’d love to hear more about your workflow, as it is similar to ours. We use Google Apps internally, and Dropbox for file storage and multi device access. I agree with your point that collaboration is disjointed when working in this setup. In fact, I started using InSync to download and sync my Google Docs to my local drive. I’ve added InSync folder to my Dropbox, so now I have all the back up in the world. However, it is far from an optimal experience.

  3. I’m not sure if search on the site is broken and if the article is just hard to find, but where is your coverage on Microsoft’s Skydrive? It release before Google Drive, offers more free storage and better pricing at similar storage tiers than Google. There’s a huge user base as well. Can you point me to your coverage on Skydrive and comparison across cloud storage offerings?

  4. Morgan Davies

    Shameless plug – As one of twenty selected companies to partner with Google for their Drive launch, I’m really proud of our team at Pixorial, a video editing, storage, and sharing platform.

  5. Om, I am already paying $5 for 25 GB of storage for picasa storage. Wondering how that is different from this service? Will Google continue to support that storage? If not, I will be very disappointed.


    • deeceefar2

      As I understand it the $5 you are paying now is for Google Storage, which is the previous version of Google Drive. You are grandfathered in to that price so the service you use now will probably just be renamed Google Drive. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to push picasa users toward Google + in the near future.

    • deeceefar2

      That seems like exactly what we were looking for. I have been contemplating adding a file drop to dropbox, but Google Drive is a far more attractive location for such a thing. Time to get rid of Filesanywhere

  6. Marcos_El_Malo

    I’m a little concerned about Google’s terms of service for G-Drive.

    Your Content in our Services

    Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

    When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

  7. See here’s the problem. The only thing I want to back up is my photo collection, and it’s probably about 80 GB now. If it grows about 20 GB a year I’ll be in 200 GB range for a while. @ $10/month in about 2 years time I’ve paid for a RAID system (or even just buying 2 drives) that should last about 5 years conservatively. That’s a pretty massive premium for letting someone else manage your backups.

    • deeceefar2

      The issue is you don’t really have a reliable backup. They are offering you the opportunity to have those files for as long as you pay the monthly premium, and simply put with only a single raid system as your backup solution you will lose those at some point.

    • This is cloud storage and syncing across multiple devices with files you need to access often and from anywhere. For straight backup, you are better off with unlimited storage offers from places like CrashPlan or Carbonite.

  8. Nicholas

    I pitched a mobile Sharepoint project in a Windows Phone idea competition six months ago, and I was surprised that they didn’t go with the visual file sharing methodologies. I use SP at work, and aside from the fact that everybody is automagically activated, the tools aren’t very easy to implement for new projects.

    There is so much room in this space. And, we were right up the corporate Pinterest alley. I am trying to figure out how to get this implemented on iPad using Box, but may simply look into the APIs here.

  9. Eric Nakagawa

    As a parent, the number one use case I have for Google Drive is backing up my family photos. I’m clocking in at 110GB. For nearly the price of a Netflix subscription I could have a fault-tolerant backup solution? SOLD!

    • Having been one of their harshest critics, I can tell you this one seems to make sense and works for people who have based their operations on google apps for business. I think they need to focus a lot more and make it more setup.