Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) might dive into the business of consumer cloud storage. The Wall Street Journal reported rumors last week that the search engine behemoth is poised to launch Drive, a data storage service that allows users to upload files to Google’s secure network for a fee. The project has been rumored since 2006. Google isn’t commenting on the rumors, but its recent privacy-policy streamlining may hint at a forthcoming storage streamlining.
Drive should make for an easy launch, considering that Google Cloud Services, which offers bulk storage options for businesses, launched last fall and is already in place. Consumers using Google Apps have also had access to free cloud storage for the various services, but the amount of offered space is inconsistent. Gmail allows over 7GB for emails, Google Docs provides 1GB for documents that follow oddly specific size requirements and the Picasa photo service imposes a 1GB limit but doesn’t count files below a certain size.
That’s a lot to keep track of, even for technophiles. Generalized service storage upgrades are available with prices starting at $5 per year for 20GB and extending upwards to nearly $4,100 per year for 16TB. Drive would likely consolidate these offerings into one storage offering with an easy-to-follow price plan.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) have their own versions of consumer cloud services, but those predominantly store purchases made from those brands and are designed to sync with proprietary devices such as iPods or Kindle Fires. Data stored to Drive would be available through any computer, tablet or smartphone with an Internet connection.
That device openness would make Drive more of a competitor to Dropbox, an online cloud storage company founded in 2007 that reached a $4 billion valuation by late 2011. Dropbox, like Google’s current cloud offerings, has a free minimal storage plan with premium upgrade options.
The price difference is steep; 80GB of Google storage costs $20 per year, while 50GB at Dropbox runs $9.99 per month. Dropbox has limited abilities to lower prices because it lacks its own physical server capacity and must instead rent space from Amazon’s Web Services.
Google is years late to the consumer storage game, and Drive appears to be another attempt at simplifying what works following a string of failures that’s seen the closing of Buzz, Wave and several other services the company once touted as the next big thing.
Speculation is also building that Drive’s release is meant to pave the way for an “entertainment device” Google is developing as a foray into hardware. Details are scant beyond that it’s initially meant to serve as a music player and that it will have WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.
Shares of Google closed down 0.9% to $605.91 Friday afternoon, a 10% decrease from the 52-week high. Drive and the entertainment device, if successful, could help Google become a stronger force in more tech fields.