Data Management

Free Storage Lures Consumers to Google’s Big Desktop in the Sky

Google is continuing its march to put the desktop on the Web, with its offer to store files as large as 250 MB in Google Docs.

Google is offering 1 GB of free storage for files that are not converted into one of the Google Docs formats — such as Google documents, spreadsheets or presentation. If more storage space is needed, it can be purchased for US$0.25 per GB per year.

The increase means users can back up large graphics files, RAW photos and ZIP archives, as well as collaborate and organize on such content online, according to Google Docs product manager Vijay Bangaru.

The increase follows enhancements Google made to its Docs product lineup late last year, rolling out such features as live sharing of folders and the ability to upload multiple items simultaneously into folders, along with a general redesign of the Docs page. Called an “incremental” improvement even by Google, the enhancements had their share of fans. The shared folders features, for example, had been the No. 1 request from users on the Google Docs Product Ideas page.

Been There, Done That

The addition of storage capacity to Google Docs follows a similar story line. “I would call this an ‘incremental’ improvement at best,” Laura DiDio, principal of ITIC, told TechNewsWorld.

Indeed, Microsoft has been offering cloud-based storage since 2008 through its Windows Live SkyDrive.

Incremental though it might be, the Google upgrade will definitely resonate with consumers who are coming to rely on Google for everything Web- and computer-related, DiDio said.

Google has been steadily wooing consumers with its offers of free cloud-based email, free cloud-based productivity apps, and now free storage, also in the cloud, she said.

“Obviously, the power users such as businesses need more storage — but this will work fine for students, self-styled videomakers, homemakers, hobbyists,” she said.

A Step Closer

Google’s goal is to deliver a desktop experience from the cloud, Lynda Stadtmueller, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, told TechNewsWorld.

“This is not a desktop virtualization application, but what Google is doing is for primarily the consumer user,” she said. “It is looking to place the [top] reasons for using a computer into the Google environment — the productivity-type applications like Google Docs, Gmail, which is already there, and now this standard storage.”

For a typical user, it is a very attractive offering, said Stadtmueller. With the upgrade in storage, “consumers can use old hardware longer — they don’t have to upgrade as much. They can reach in and get what they need from any desktop or laptop.”

Sustainable Pricing?

It’s questionable how sustainable this free pricing model is for Google, said Stadtmueller — especially as competitors will likely match Google’s offering. Microsoft could possibly trump Google with its own expanded offering, as it has done in the past.

“As human beings, we tend to fill up whatever space is available. Anything that offers unlimited or cheap storage winds up with the users sitting on an explosion of goods or data,” Stadtmueller observed. “Take a look at Facebook — there is no way people would save all that data, all those photos, if they had to pay for it.”

Consumers will rush to fill the Google storage vacuum, she concluded — and cloud-based apps make it easy to file and forget. “You can’t easily see what you have stored in the cloud, and with no incentive to self-edit, the number of apps and data there will only continue to spiral.”

That, of course, may well be one of the underpinnings of Google’s strategy.

1 Comment

  • This article doesn’t seem to address where other services still exceed the offerings of Google Docs (aside from online applications). Windows Live Skydrive, while I’m not impressed with its functionality, already offers 25GB of free storage. Another little known secret is Windows Live Mesh, a free, online, automatic backup and storage service that offers 5GB for free. Google is way behind these numbers with their measly 1GB.

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