Wall St. Journal ran a B1 story this morning about the forthcoming online storage service from Google. Call it GDrive, call it Platypus, call it My Stuff - the vast majority of tech bloggers have called it old news. I disagree. I think there's a lot of potential for Google's online storage to be a game changing product.The
It appears that the GDrive will sit on your desktop and sync automatically selected files automatically with online storage. Those files will be accessible from the desktop and browser at least as easily as they would be were they on your own hard drive.
Here's three ways I think this could be big.
1. Your files will become computable on a massive scale
The difference between local and online storage in this case will not just be the absence of space limitations, the data will also be accessible to the nearly infinite computing power of Google. Though it's a nontraditional use of the world, I think Henry Blodget is on to something important when he writes this morning about GDrive that "'cloud computing' represents a paradigm shift similar in magnitude to the one that ushered in the PC age." Both for individual users and in anonymous aggregate, there's magic that's possible when our data is so accessible to unlimited processing power.
To say that all our docs will be open to cross-application search, as the WSJ reported, is just the beginning. You want to talk about top-down semantic analysis, for example? There may be no better way to do it with our files, or to use our files in the service of ontology creation, than by putting them in the hands of Google. There are countless other online storage options, but who among them are actively chewing on the data they are storing? I'm willing to bet that Google will and will do a better job of it than anyone else. It's frightening and exciting at the same time.
2. Mobile access
The story today includes some of the first discussion of mobile access to GDrive files. Seamless syncing of our data assets between desktop access and mobile access could change the mobile landscape in a big way. Combine this with what could be a flourishing ecosystem of mobile applications ala Android, and perhaps (to allow myself some optimism) the promise of OpenSocial, and we've got some powerful new mobile social networking possibilities. Add some old documents from a previous job to my LinkedIn profile, from my phone on the run? No problem.
3. Gears + GDrive
Do all of the above, on a plane. Someday Google will notice that I've got a trip out of town scheduled on GCal and offer to sync up my recent GDrive files marked "work" to Gears for the plane trip. Especially if I've been searching a lot on locations far away on Google Maps lately.
The Gears functionality of quickly making files local and then syncing them back up when you return online is going to be a big deal. Zoho Writer's Gears offline version released yesterday is just one example. Combine Gears with effectively infinite storage and computing power and you've got a lot of possibilities.
It's easy to be cynical about the details coming from the Wall St. Journal this morning. It's easy wonder whether Google will ever bring its storage product to market, whether it can be trusted given the number of times its own company blogs have been hacked and whether it's even a good idea given the near omniscience the company will soon possess. I believe, though, that important new information is coming out about the GDrive and the product will play a fundamentally different roll in our lives than existing online storage products purport to.