Google Drive is finally in gear. The oft-rumored -- and delayed -- data-storage service made its debut Tuesday, adding the biggest name to a high-tech scrum over consumers and small businesses.
Drive lets people store photos, documents and videos on Google's servers so that they are accessible from any Web-connected device and easily shared with others. If you wanted to e-mail a video shot from a smartphone, for instance, you could upload it to the Web through a Drive mobile app and e-mail a link to the video rather than sending a bulky file.
"Drive is at the heart of what cloud computing is," says Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome and apps. "It was created to be the center of the Google application experience." For example, Google Docs is integrated into Drive. And Drive took awhile to launch, Pichai says, because Google wanted it to work seamlessly and securely with Google and third-party apps, as well as across multiple languages and devices.
Google's foray into the consumer cloud market officially makes it a free-for-all, with nearly every major tech player -- including Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.com -- making a play for small businesses and consumers.
"This puts Google directly in the game for personal cloud services," says Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. "It's likely to appeal to consumers, especially those who are already engaged in Google services, as well as business users, who can leverage the integration into Google Docs."
Google's entry raises questions about the future of Dropbox, its start-up rival in the space. Google intends to drop the digital hammer on Dropbox with cut-rate pricing. While Dropbox charges $10 a month for 50 GB, Google sells 100 GB for $4.99 a month.
Drive is also offering consumers 5 GB of free storage -- more than twice the 2 GB of free storage offered by Dropbox. Google's service is available for Macintosh, Windows and Android devices. An iOS version is weeks away.
Dropbox has gained the attention of consumers for its elegance and simplicity -- and of suitors, such as Apple and Google, both of whom were spurned. Its promise as an IPO candidate has made Dropbox the target of Google, whose tactic at this point is: If you can't buy 'em, beat 'em.
Dropbox, which says it "does one thing and better than anyone else," this week added a feature that lets users share files through a link.
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