Google announced some interface changes to their Google Docs service that are designed to make finding your files easier. The changes are relatively minor - the "shared with" list has gone away, there's a new "Sharing" menu, and you now have the ability to save your searches - but that hasn't stopped some bloggers from theorizing that the shiny new UI is bringing us one step closer to the often theorized, yet never realized, "Google Drive" service, aka "your hard drive in the cloud."Last week,
Although we know this service exists in some form as an internal tool, Google has yet to release a version for public use. But with the latest announcements about the new Chrome operating system, we wonder: will Google Drive finally become a reality thanks to Chrome OS?
Hints of GDrive
In January of this year, blogger Brian Ussery discovered an interesting tidbit of information tucked into a file used by Google Pack, the bundle of tools that Google thinks computer users need to set up a new machine. The file contained a reference to a product called GDrive, described as an "online file backup and storage" system:
"GDrive provides reliable storage for all of your files, including photos, music and documents. GDrive allows you to access your files from anywhere, anytime, and from any device - be it from your desktop, web browser or cellular phone."
Of course, the blogosphere immediately went crazy over this information, sure that this time Google Drive was about to become a reality. And yet, like all the times before, nothing happened. GDrive didn't launch, Google didn't release any announcement, and disappointed bloggers everywhere moved on...again.
Still, the hope for a true GDrive system just won't die. It very well may be one of the blogosphere's longest-running rumors. And now, with the recent announcement of Google's new Chrome Operating System, an OS where "web-based applications will automatically work," we wonder: will the mythical GDrive be included with the OS?
GDrive Needs Picasa Integration
From what we already know, Google has somewhat integrated Picasa into the backend of Google Docs, but, for whatever reason, they have not yet switched this on. To see what we mean, visit this link: http://docs.google.com/#photos. You'll be taken to Google Docs where a message will appear "No Photos." In other words, Picasa image search works in Google Docs, but there's nothing for it to search until the two services are fully integrated. But this functionality was discovered nearly a year ago. What's the holdup?
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Picasa, unlike Docs, is a combination of desktop software and a web service. The service's Web Albums feature is more like flickr, a place where photos are shared either publicly or privately with friends and family. However, it's the desktop software that provides the organizational and editing tools needed to manage your photo library. Integrating Picasa into Google Docs now would only be a partially complete user experience - you still need the desktop software component to access all the functionality the service provides.
Maybe Google is waiting to provide that complete experience via Chrome OS? It's not that far-fetched. Picasa is already available in a Linux version (and Chrome OS will sit on a Linux kernel). But perhaps what really has us hopeful was one extra word in the Google Chrome OS announcement:
"...most of the user experience takes place on the web."
Most? Maybe Chrome OS will let you manage your photos via desktop software that integrates with a web service and is accessible via your Google Docs interface? Will that interface then be "GDrive?"
GDrive Needs Music...Or Does It?
If you can't save your tunes online to your cloud storage drive, then you don't really have any cloud storage drive worth using, do you? Even if Google Docs added in Picasa, we'd still be looking at an incomplete GDrive solution if we didn't have access to our music. For GDrive to become the true "hard drive in the sky" it needs to accommodate other sorts of files besides just documents and photos.
It would make sense if Google leveraged their existing partnership with Amazon, who provides the music store on the T-Mobile G1 and the myTouch 3G, phones running Google's mobile phone OS called Android. With Amazon's online interface, you can already browse, listen to samples, and buy MP3s via the web.
The question is, will Chrome OS integrate some sort of music store for letting you buy music (maybe via Amazon) from your computer? And if so, will you be able to download and save those files to the hard drive of the computer itself? Or will Google come up with some revolutionary new "music in the cloud" service that lets you accumulate an online library of songs available at any time for streaming from your computer? Or then again, does Chrome OS even need an iTunes alternative in order to compete? Maybe they will simply offer a web app like Pandora. There have been no hints as to what direction Google will go with this or if they will ignore users' need for music altogether in the new OS.
But like this author's sister recently said after being told about Chrome OS: "why would I want a computer that couldn't run iTunes?"
We hope Google will keep that in mind.
GDrive and Video?
YouTube. Still, you couldn't really have a cloud storage system that restricted you to storing only documents and photos and call it "GDrive." But integrating the supposed GDrive with YouTube - especially via Chrome OS - could be tough. Today, videos still need to be on your computer's hard drive for editing purposes. And, of course, uploading a file from your computer is how you get them online to sites like YouTube. Althouugh GDrive could easily include a way for you to view your online files at YouTube, getting them there via Chrome OS would be more difficult. However, if Chrome OS allowed you to save files on its hard drive, then the YouTube uploader built into Chrome could simply know to look in that particular video storage location when you go to publish them online. Making this a seamless experience for the end user would be the challenge. Again, there are no hints as to Google's plans in this department, but it would seem odd if Chrome OS didn't attempt to integrate one of Google's top properties deep into its system.Would a true GDrive solution offer a way for users to store video files, too? It almost seems redundant to have an online storage system for video since Google also owns the giant video sharing portal that is
Although this article is just pure speculation, we think that if we ever see GDrive revealed, there's a chance that it would occur when it's introduced as a part of Chrome OS. What do you think?