Quanp, a new service from office electronics company Ricoh, has just launched a beta of their online storage system which offers an interesting twist to the usual backup services: a visual search tool that displays your data in 3D. The 3D viewer is actually a desktop application designed for Windows PCs, but Mac users aren't entirely out of luck - there is an online version of the service, too.
Once we got past the site's terrible name (short for "quantum paper" - huh?) and focused on what it was offering, we were intrigued. Using a desktop widget called quanp drop, you simply drag-and-drop files from your computer to the online service, be them documents, photos, mp3s, or whatever else you want. It's a similar concept to the widget used by file-sharing service Dropbox; but unlike the Dropbox widget, installed via an executable file, quanp's widget is powered by Adobe AIR. You can even pick which style you want to use for your icon.
Then, depending on your computer (Mac or PC), you can either download the Windows-only desktop client or head over to the online service at quanp.net. Unfortunately, non-Windows users using the online service miss out on the sexiest thing about this new service: the 3D file browser.
For Windows Users
In the Windows desktop client, you browse through your files using its visually stunning interface. Although pretty, visual browsing isn't always the most efficient way to locate a particular file, so quanp's software also lets you search by keyword, tag, date, and more. The client even includes a basic reader for Microsoft Office files so you can see the content without having to launch the office software.
For Mac Users
Non-Windows users can use the online site to browse through files, but there's nothing all that exciting about this part of the service. It doesn't even offer an web version of the 3D interface. However, you can view files and their metadata, share them with others, plus upload or download files using buttons provided on the site.
Sexy, But Useful?
For the most part, a lot of what makes quanp fun to use is its visual eye candy. However, for users of the free Windows Live service, there may be some hesitation in switching. Although lacking a drag-and-drop widget of its own, Windows Live users can upload both photos and videos to online services using Photo Gallery software - and not just to the online service provided by Windows Live, but to flickr, Facebook, and YouTube as well (the last two via plugins). They can also tag files, identify faces, edit photos, and browse through files - just not in glorious 3D.
Of course there are plenty of other online storage services out there, but Windows Live is the most apt comparison since it, like quanp, is a combination of desktop software and an online component - a "software + services" arrangement. Most other online storage services either don't offer desktop tools at all or don't offer tools that also function as a way to elegantly browse and edit your files.
To determine if quanp is the better choice for you, think about whether you need to upload more than just photos or videos - if so, then quanp will work (although visual search of docs isn't quite as fun). Also of note, quanp offers 10 GB to Windows Live's 25 GB. However, the company plans to offer graded pricing in the future for additional storage, but no official decision has yet been made on exactly what that will be.
Of course, for some early adopters, "sexy" beats "practical" any day. If that describes you, then you should sign up for the quanp beta here. (But sorry world - the beta is U.S.-only!)