Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Google to offer personal storage

Google let slip some revealing information about its plan for world domination in some notes accompanying a slideshow released on its website:

In a world with infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power, here's what we could do with consumer products --

Theme 1: Speed
Seems simple, but should not be overlooked because impact is huge. Users don't realize how slow things are until they get something faster. Users assume it takes time for a webpage to load, but the experience should really be instantaneous. Gmail started to do this for webmail, but that's just a small first step. Infinite bandwidth will make this a reality for all applications.

Theme 2: Store 100% of User Data
With infinite storage, we can house all user files, including: emails, web history, pictures, bookmarks, etc and make it accessible from anywhere (any device, any platform, etc).

We already have efforts in this direction in terms of GDrive, GDS, Lighthouse, but all of them face bandwidth and storage constraints today. For example: Firefox team is working on server side stored state but they want to store only URLs rather than complete web pages for storage reasons. This theme will help us make the client less important (thin client, thick server model) which suits our strength vis-a-vis Microsoft and is also of great value to the user.
As we move toward the "Store 100%" reality, the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local-machine copy serves more like a cache. An important implication of this theme is that we can make your online copy more secure than it would be on your own machine.

[via glinden.blogspot.com]
It describes Google's vision that it will hold all of your data, and that your hard drive will only be used to store a cache of that data and probably the operating system, with your applications and main ('Golden Copy') data stored on Google's servers. This is significant, and cannot be dismissed as pie in the sky, because of the reference to unannounced Google products, namely GDrive and Lighthouse.

GDrive has been rumoured for some time, and it has now become fairly clear what it is and what it will do. It will be a service which allows you to store data on Google's server farm, and access it from there in realtime, on demand. Google will probably release some sort of program which makes the GDrive appear as an extra drive on the hard disk, allowing easier saving to it. In the long term, they will also release AJAX web apps, in the style of writely.com, the online word processor, so that you don't even need to have any programs beside the OS on your computer.

Of course, Google already offers this functionality to a certain extent. They have recently started storing a copy of mine and thousands of other people's text-based documents on there servers, to allow the functionality of Google Desktop 3 of 'Search Across Computers'. Gmail was also just about the first of a new line of rich Web 2.0 application webmail programs, offering similar and in some cases enhanced features to conventional mail programs.

Google will not have an easy job gaining market share in this field. I have already mentioned writely.com, and there are many other innovative services which together offer the vast majority of the features Google is envisiging providing. I can edit documents online, I can sort out my music online, I can store my files online. Perhaps the competition Google is most worried about comes from Microsoft. In recent months, Microsoft has really got its act together with web services with the launch of Live brand, containing services such Mail Beta and most significantly Office Live, providing much of the functionality Google is probably intending to have.

Google's key advantages are likely to be
  • its integration with its highly respected search system. If it can create a unique selling point that it can organise and sort all your data for you, and you can find it with incredible ease.
  • the consolidation of all these services in one. Microsoft's plethora of different brands could cause confusion and deter potential customers. Google keeps its brands simple, and that gives it a high level of product clarity.
  • great advertising space. It can advertise its products on probably the most visited website on the internet.
  • the service will probably be ad-supported. Bargain hunters will therefore be overjoyed at the prospect of all this functionality for free
It looks like it will be an interesting battle.

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