Thursday, 9 February 2012
Google `Near` Launch of Cloud Storage Service
Google Inc is close to launching a cloud-storage service that would rival one of Silicon Valley's hottest start-ups, cloud-storage provider Dropbox Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.
Like Dropbox, Google's storage service, called Drive, is a response to the growth of Internet-connected mobile devices like smartphones and tablets and the rise of "cloud computing," or storing files online so that they can be retrieved from multiple devices, these people said.
Drive allows people to store photos, documents and videos on Google's servers so that they could be accessible from any Web-connected device and allows them to easily share the files with others, these people said. If a person wants to email a video shot from a smartphone, for instance, he can upload it to the Web through the Drive mobile app and email people a link to the video rather than a bulky file.
The Google service, which is expected to launch in the coming weeks or months, will be free for most consumers and businesses. Google will charge a fee to those who want to store a large amount of files, the people familiar with the matter said.
Google's Drive is one of several recent attempts by the Internet giant to catch up to smaller companies in hot new areas. Last year, the company released Google+, which aims to compete with social-media sites Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. Google Currents, a mobile-device app that lets people read news articles, was launched last fall and is viewed as a competitor to Flipboard Inc. and other such apps. Google also has developed services and bought business-reviews company Zagat to better compete with Yelp Inc.
Google previously contemplated a cloud-storage service. Five years ago, Google co-founder Larry Page, who is now the company's chief executive, worked with teams of programmers to develop a service, known internally as "G Drive," to let people store music files and other data online, according to people familiar with the matter. It was set to launch in late 2007 but never did.
Since then, Dropbox, founded in 2007 by two graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has skyrocketed in popularity. As of October 2011, Dropbox had more than 45 million members who saved one billion files every few days. At the time, Dropbox raised $250 million at a reported $4 billion valuation for the company. Dropbox CEO Drew Houston has said the company turned down a "nine-figure" buyout offer from Apple Inc. in 2009.
Google's Drive service also would rival Apple's iCloud, which lets people store data online but only can be accessed through Apple devices.
Google's service is expected to be added to its suite of online software that it sells to businesses, called Google Apps. That would also make Drive competitive with Box.net, which sells cloud storage to businesses.
World-wide, $830 million was spent on such file and back-up storage services in 2011, and that figure is expected to grow by 47% to $1.2 billion this year, according to Gartner Inc.
The free version of Dropbox lets people store as much as two gigabytes of data. People can pay $10 or $20 a month to store up to 50 or 100 gigabytes, and hundreds of dollars for a lot more storage.
Google's initiative aims to offer such storage for a smaller fee, said a person familiar with the matter.
Dropbox is able to store so much data thanks to Amazon Inc.'s Web Services, a division that maintains a network of computers that stores data online. Amazon rents out this network to Web companies such as Dropbox, video site Netflix Inc. and social game company Zynga Inc.
Google already has a massive cloud infrastructure to store and power all of its services, from Web search and video site YouTube to Web applications such as Google Docs, which lets people create and work on documents and other files online.