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With Google Drive, 'personal cloud' will soon overshadow the PC

Lucas Mearian | April 25, 2012
The launch of Google's cloud storage and synchronization service -- Google Drive -- means hundreds of millions of tech users will now be introduced to file sharing, collaboration and integrated document search.

While other pundits have said that Google was "out to lunch" when it came to offering a comprehensive cloud storage service, Gartenberg said it was worth the wait as the company has hit the mark on every important feature.

Google Drive enables ubiquitous search

Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester Research, agreed. "What's very interesting is having such a capability tied to one of the largest email offerings on the planet," he said. "Microsoft's SkyDrive [has] been around for a while and linked to Hotmail, but this more significant than that."

Unique to Google Drive is its ability to search email, access Google Docs, and use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for scanned documents and image recognition through Google Goggles. The image recognition also allows users to search photographs to identify geographical locations.

Gillett said he'd like to see tighter integration between Gmail and Google Drive, such as the ability to right click on a document and be able to automatically embed it in an email.

"This is pretty cool to have a Google Doc experience and your email in the same account and to be able to do file synchronization and have integrated search," Gillett said. "That's unique."

The launch of Google Drive puts the Google in direct competition with Apple and its iCloud offering, which ties a cloud storage and file synchronization service with its other services, such as its iTunes online music offering. The challenge Google has now is that it must evangelize its service to consumers just as Apple has with iCloud, explaining in common terms how it works.

"Apple has commercials running now about iCloud, and synchronization and how it moves from device to device and screen to screen and how your content can flow," Gartenberg said.

Smaller cloud services threatened

While Google Drive competes with Microsoft's SkyDrive and Apple's iCloud, the companies that are more at risk are smaller consumer service providers, such as DropBox, Box.net, SugarSync and YouSendIt. Those sites have appealed more to technology enthusiasts, not average consumers. But when it comes to adoption, relationships matter.

Hundreds of millions of consumers already have a relationship with Google through its email, document storage and search services in much the same way other users have relationships with Apple and Microsoft.

"They don't have much of a relationship with theses smaller [cloud] companies," Gartenberg said. "The challenge for these smaller companies is reaching out to consumers or shifting to somewhat of a different market; the problem is that Google also wants the business market, the small business market and ultimately the enterprise IT market."

Brad Nisbet, an analyst with market research firm IDC, said a business offering is the one place where Google Drive falls somewhat flat. What often happens is that employees begin using a consumer-class cloud service for storing personal photos, music and documents and then want to use it in their work place.

 

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