Google has finally made good on the rumours of the past five years or so with the launch of Google Drive, a cloud storage service for individuals and businesses.
Announced by the company late yesterday, Google Drive allows users to store any file format they like on Google's cloud services while simultaneously tying in to existing services like Google Docs.
It's clear even at launch that Google is looking at ways to distinguish itself in the crowded cloud storage market. Perhaps the biggest bonus of Google Drive compared to rival services is the use of optical character recognition (OCR) technology to make the contents of scanned documents searchable and image recognition a la
Google Image Search to make photographs findable by keyword.
The Drive software itself is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Android, with an iOS version in the works. Sadly, Linux users are left out in the cold - and worse, while Google has launched application programming interfaces (APIs) for accessing Google Drive they are currently only suitable for programming web apps.
Google's initial offering of 5GB of free space is generous, but not exceedingly so: rival SkyDrive from Microsoft offers 7GB, although the popular Dropbox offers a mere 2GB. With a bit of work, though, it's possible to convince Dropbox to give you up to 32GB of space for free
, and business-oriented Box - formerly known as Box.net - often runs promotions for 50GB of free space for life.
Google's pricing for more storage is competitive, if not stunningly so: $2.49 a month gets users 25GB, $4.99 gets 100GB and 1TB costs $49.99 per month. As a bonus, users who choose to upgrade to a paid plan will see their Gmail storage increased to 25GB.
Not everyone is happy with Google, however. The terms of service for Google Drive accounts include some terminology which has creative types concerned for their rights. 'When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content,
' the document reads.
Despite being similar to the terms and conditions found by Dropbox, and having a preceding paragraph which explains that users 'retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content - in short, what belongs to you stays yours,
' users are already expressing concerns about the rights granted to Google over uploaded content.
A particularly contentious section indicates that the rights granted to Google exist in perpetuity: 'This licence continues even if you stop using our Services
,' Google's TOS reads. With the potential for files uploaded to the service to remain accessible for exploitation by Google forever, caution is advised before potentially lucrative intellectual property is entrusted to the service.
You can sign up to Google Drive at the official website
, if that warning hasn't put you off.