launched today, and the team behind it took great pains to explain to ReadWriteWeb that the service is in its "early stages." While it does offer unique features on day one, there's so much potential that Google has yet to implement. Here's what Google Drive should be when it grows up, if Google can pull it off.Google Drive
Google Docs Everywhere
We expected that Google Drive would extend the capabilities of Google Docs, and it does. It makes the files in your Google Docs account visible to the file system on your computer. But it's a stretch to call this first version of Google Drive a "collaboration" tool the way Google does.
Collaborators can comment alongside any file, just as they could on Google Docs before. But Google Drive doesn't allow editing of documents. Opening the files just launches Google Docs in the browser, whether on a desktop or mobile device.
We don't even have an iOS app on launch day, but Google has shown it to us. It's just a viewer, no different from the Dropbox app. Android users do have native Google Docs, but the rest have to use the browser. On the mobile Web, that experience is severely limited.
The grown-up Google Drive should be able to edit Google Docs locally. Maybe desktop users don't need that, since Google Docs is great on a big browser, but the iOS apps should have editing. There's just no good way to work with Google Docs on iOS.
But if Google Drive allowed reading and writing, it would be a unique and interesting iOS app. Maybe a third-party developer will make that happen.
Search, Plus Your Stuff
The last round of Google Drive rumors hit about a month after Google integrated Google+ into search. The "Search, plus Your World" feature still isn't very interesting unless you and your contacts are heavy Google+ users. But if the contents of your Google Drive were included, Google would have something pretty nifty.
"Search is at the heart of everything we do," Google's Sundar Pichai told ReadWriteWeb. That's why Google Drive's internal search is stacked with powerful capabilities like full-text search, optical character recognition and Google Goggles image recognition. But the way to reach most Google users is to put those features right into the Google.com search box. That box is synonymous with the Web for millions of people.
If the two modes of Google search were "the Web" and "your stuff," all these integrations would really start to show their advantages. Google would be a start page for whatever users were looking for, and the toggle between the two search modes would have a clear purpose.
Imagine Google a few months from now if it finishes this integration. What do you do if you need to find a restaurant? Google it. Need directions? Google it. Need your receipt later for expenses? Google it. You can almost do that with the Google Drive that shipped today, but you need a different address or a different app for that last step.
Hosted By Google
Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive and even iCloud make money when you need extra space. They compete on tiny differences in the features and storage offerings. But there's another way one of these services could stand out, and if Dropbox won't do it, Google should.
Files hosted publicly in Google Drive should be usable anywhere on the Web.
Anyone can already download the files manually. Google Drive could have a huge advantage over its competitors if you could permalink to those files. If Imgur can host images for other sites, why can't Google? And Google Drive can understand over 30 file types. Why not PDFs and audio files, too?
You can do this with Dropbox, but if your file is downloaded enough times, you're toast. Dropbox takes punitive action on your account if you break its bandwidth limit. If Google could craft a better policy that allows users to link to files on Drive from the Web without worrying, that would be a compelling advantage over the alternatives.
The first version of Google Drive does not upend the market, but it stands up well against its existing competitors. It would be silly to give a verdict on the first version's first day. We'll see how the product's development lives up to its potential over time.