It’s one of Silicon Valley’s greatest pink elephants: Why doesn’t Google offer a cloud storage service to rival Dropbox, Box.net, or Microsoft’s SkyDrive? Google has the most internet-connected servers in the world, the largest combined storage of any web company, and already offers photo storage (Picasa), document storage (Docs), music storage (Music), but for some reason it has never offered a unified Google Drive. According to people familiar with the matter, however, our wait is almost over: Google’s Hard Drive In The Sky is coming soon, possibly “within weeks.” (paywalled)
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.
Being cheaper than the competition is only part of the equation, though. To really succeed, Google would need mobile and desktop apps to rival Dropbox or SugarSync — and with Android in its pocket, this is where Google Drive could really shine. As it stands, Google really doesn’t have anything that’s comparable to the autonomous simplicity ofiCloud — but with Google Drive, that could all change. We have already seen a hint of this with Google+ for Android, which lets you automatically upload photos — but only to Google+. If Google Drive can bring the same functionality to mail, docs, music, and so on, then Google could be onto a winner. It’s also worth noting that Google Drive also could be integrated into Chrome — and Chrome OS, of course.
At this point, most tech sites would usually sign off with some pandering adoration for Google’s awesome tech-savviness. Instead, we feel obliged to point out Microsoft’s SkyDrive, poor little No Geek Cred SkyDrive. Microsoft’s cloud storage service gives you 25GB for free! It works really well with Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 — and comeWindows 8 and WP8 (and Xbox 720?) it will bebaked right into the OS, like iOS’s iCloud but better. The web interface is excellent, too, and ties in nicely with Office Web Apps (pictured right), which are generally a lot better than Google Docs.
Ultimately, then, Google Drive needs to be awesome to stick out from the crowd — and that’s probably why Google has waited so long to bring out a service that it really should’ve launched years ago, before Dropbox or SkyDrive. It’s a little bit odd, really: With its arsenal of web services, Android, and Chrome OS, Google should be leading the cloud storage pack; instead, we’re waiting to see if Google Drive is comparable to little ol’ Dropbox.
[Image credit: Johannes Wigand]