Will Google’s G-Drive Turbo Charge the Consumer Cloud?

Will Google’s G-Drive Turbo Charge the Consumer Cloud?

The rumors on Google’s cloud storage solution – G Drive is back, after a couple of years of hiatus. Leaks based on the screenshots reveled here and here point to a service with a 5 GB free storage to be launched in the middle of April. Google is already venturing big into the cloud computing space with launch of Google Music and Google Play. Will this revolutionize the consumer cloud market?

While Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Microsoft Skydrive and other cloud providers have increased their user base, the amount of cloud usage (both in number of users and amount of data shared) is a drop in bucket compared to the total amount of data created by the 2 billion PC consumers across the world. Microsoft’s Skydrive provides 25 GB of free storage and promises to integrate the product deeply with OS file system in Windows 8. But it has not managed to create a significant impact on the market.

Can Google get the cloud storage right? While Google’s G-Drive will be an interesting addition to the cloud computing mix, I do not think it will greatly influence the market due to the following reasons.

  1. It is a little late in the game. While there were rumors since 2006 about the G-Drive nothing much materialized in the past 6 years. That has enabled its competitors to get a significant footing. Give the lack of interoperability between the cloud storage platforms, it will be hard for it to get a big flock of new users.

  2. The storage provided is too little. The rumors range from 2GB to 5GB of free storage. That is small compared to what Microsoft Skydrive offers. Given the amount of photos, music and documents we hold in our PCs, even 5GB is too small to be meaningful.

  3. Lack of platform ownership. Apple’s iCloud has made it very easy to sync data in Mountain Lion and iOS, and Microsoft is doing the same in Windows Phone Mango and Windows 8. However, Google doesn’t have a desktop platform and would have to rely mainly on Android’s user base to build traction. This might make its offering inferior to both Apple and Microsoft.

  4. Lack of great cloud apps. This is a problem that affects not just Google, but the entire consumer cloud computing market. While Google docs and Microsoft Office 365 has brought some level of cloud based document usage, they are still significantly inferior compared to their desktop alternatives. People still need desktop applications such as Photoshop, Autodesk, Indesign, Microsoft Office that have no significant cloud rivals.

  5. Bandwidth. While it is great to talk about LTE and 4G, the ground reality is that bandwidth provided by most big network providers suck. This makes it very expensive and time consuming to move big files around. For some time to come, consumers will be forced to store majority of their files in their PC while deciding on the important ones to be stored in the cloud.

  6. Platform fragmentation. For consumers in the world, the current desktop platform options are only PC and the Mac, with most choosing one platform or the other. However, with the increased competition and lack of standards in the cloud stage we will see further fragmentation in the storage market. This will put off most ordinary users from joining the game. Most users prefer simplicity and are against change.

In summary, I see Google drive as an interesting option to the consumers, but do not see it disrupting the consumer cloud market in any significant way.

By Balaji Viswanathan

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