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Google Drive Kicks Into Gear

By Richard Adhikari
Apr 24, 2012 2:11 PM PT

Google on Tuesday unveiled Google Drive, its long-anticipated storage locker in the cloud.

Google Drive Kicks Into Gear

The service incorporates Google Docs and lets users upload, access and share their files, including videos, photos and PDFs.

Google Drive works on Macs and PCs, and an Android app is available. An iOS app is in the works.

Google is working with third-party developers to create apps that offer additional features, such as sending faxes and editing videos directly from Drive.

"We're always working to make our products more useful to people," Scott Johnston, group product manager for Google Drive, told TechNewsWorld.

Cruising With Google Drive

Google Drive users can collaborate with others in real time. They can also share content and comments about that content. Google Drive features keyword search and content filters that include file type and owner.

Google Drive has optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities. It also offers rudimentary image recognition capabilities.

The first 5 GB of Google Drive storage are free. Upgrading to 25 GB will cost US$2.50 a month; to 100 GB, $5 a month; and 1 TB, $50 a month.

Users can attach photos from Google Drive to their posts in Google+, and they'll soon be able to attach documents or other items stored in Drive to emails in Gmail.

How Google Drive Works

Google Drive creates specific folders on users' computers that sync with their cloud-based repository and with the online version of the service.

When users drag a file into one of these folders, it's automatically synced with their cloud account, the Web version of Google Drive, and the Google Drive folders in the user's other computers and in the service's mobile apps.

Any changes made to users' files are also synced across their various devices.

Third-Party Players

HelloFax already offers an app that lets users send and receive faxes, sign any document or request an electronic signature directly from their Google Drive account.

Other third-party Google Drive app developers include Aviary, which offers an image editor; Desmos, an HTML 5 social graphing calculator; and project management apps from Gantter and SmartSheet which work with Microsoft Project as well.

Google Drive apps will be available from the Google Chrome store.

Quick Caveats About Google Drive

"Generally, if you use [Google Drive] for things you want to share, you won't have issues, but if you need security, consider a different service," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

That also goes for the third-party apps where, "as long as you aren't doing anything with them you don't want public, there should be no issues," Enderle said.

Using Google Drive may also give enterprises legal headaches because "people may store significant amounts of personal and even work information there without realizing that this information is subject to subpoena and release for other purposes, as set out in Google's current privacy policy," Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, told TechNewsWorld.

Coping With the Competition

Google Drive's main competitors are long-time adversaries Microsoft and Apple, with Windows Live SkyDrive, which was recently updated, and iCloud, respectively.

However, Apple's iCloud is really for the captive Apple user market.

SkyDrive runs on Windows 7 and Windows 8 as well as Windows Vista, and Microsoft is releasing a preview client for Mac OS X Lion. The service also has mobile apps for Windows Phone and iOS devices, but not for Android.

Google Drive, on the other hand, runs on Macs, PCs and Android.

Microsoft's SkyDrive offers an initial 7 GB of storage free as compared to Google Drive's 5 GB.

An additional 20 GB costs $10 a year at SkyDrive and $30 a year at Google Drive. An extra 50 GB costs $25 a year at SkyDrive; Google Drive doesn't offer 50 GB. SkyDrive charges $50 a year for an extra 100 GB and SkyDrive $60 a year. Google Drive offers 1 TB for $600 a year. SkyDrive doesn't go that far.

However, "Google typically underinvests and underpromotes its services, Google+ being a leading example," Enderle stated. "Unless that practice changes, I expect Google Drive will fail to meet expectations."

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