Why Google Drive matters but APIs matter more
Today, Google Drive finally made its debut, offering what has become the industry-standard 5GB of free space. Its purchase model is similar to Apple's, Amazon's, and other leaders in this field. We posted earlier about its introduction.
Expect to pay US$48/year for 20GB. This is $4/month versus iCloud's $40/year for 20GB. Drive supports accounts up to 16TB. Google Docs storage does not count against your Drive, and retains is super-economical pricing. You can pick up 20GB of Docs for $5/year, 80 GB for $20/year, etc.
As expected, Drive uses a high level of encryption, using SSL (hopefully Google will resist the temptation to index your personal files) with a 99.9% uptime guarantee, massive simultaneous data replication in geographically dispersed centers and 24/7 "support (This is Google, however, so keep your expectations in line with that basic fact.).
In other words, it's what we've come to expect from the cloud storage industry.
But when it comes to cloud, success lies far less in centralized storage and more in the ubiquity of data access. When I put a document into my Dropbox, I know that I'll be able retrieve, read, edit and update that from nearly any platform I use.
From Android to iOS, Mac to Windows, a large range of apps support the Dropbox APIs (I asked Dropbox for API and platform adoption numbers but did not hear back before this post went live).
That's important because ubiquity doesn't mean "available on the cloud from select platforms and select applications." Ubiquity means "my data, right now."
Google Docs APIs have made great inroads into this arena. Docs are nearly as available as Dropbox. iCloud, while available extensively through Apple's Mac and iOS platform is barely integrated into Windows (Apple did announce further API support intentions in the past), Android, webOS, etc. In my mixed-platform family, that's a big consideration for where I choose to spend my money.
That's why Google's Drive API announcement on their less frequented developers site represents a key factor in this story. It's an OAuth-based system, similar to the Google Apps API (read "Docs"), and will grow and evolve as Docs did with the potential for a similar reach across platforms.
It's a big, bad, wild west cloud-world out there. Nice to see Google step into the shootout.
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