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Archive for February 1st, 2009

A Very Prosaic Side Benefit of GDrive for Google

Posted by Bob Warfield on February 1, 2009

The almost mythical Google GDrive seems to be resurfacing.  Rumors are flying that Google will shortly introduce storage in the cloud for the masses.  Apparently the code name for the project is “platypus“, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for its elegance, at least from a name standpoint.

Is this a big event? 

RWWeb speculates that Google is finally big enough to make the solution credible to the masses, but that analysis misses the boat.   They link to a list of Cloud storage solutions that they say is all “small and medium sized” businesses.  Just one problem with that theory:  one of the competitors is Microsoft (last I checked they’re still bigger than Google, though through no fault of their own), and they flat out forgot to mention Mozy, which is owned by EMC and has been on the scene for a while.  Sure Google is big, but so is Microsoft and Mozy, and there is also JungleDisk which works with Amazon, another big company and bigger than any of the others when it comes to their track record of delivering Cloud storage.

Fellow Enterprise Irregular Larry Dignan puts it into a little more objective perspective when he says:

Am I missing something here? It’s an online backup service, one of many. 

Brian Ussery made a nice find and now the speculation is rampant.

Sure it’s possible that GDrive changes the world. Then again it’s also possible that GDrive will just be another online storage system with a Google logo on it. 

I realize that every time Eric Schmidt has gas it garners a headline. But c’mon. We’re talking online backup up here. 

Apple has it. EMC via Mozy has it. Dell has it. Pick a vendor and everyone has some spin on the online storage thing. 

Heck, this particular version as described in the Platypus document is even all that innovative.  My buddies over at SoonR have shown what you can really do once you get your data in the Cloud.  Now their stuff is cool!  I still remember bugging out when Song Huang showed me a PowerPoint preson on a Motorola Dumb Phone.  How can that Dumb Phone do those smart things?  They’ve since gone on to make even Smart Phones do amazing things.  Song always has a bag full of phones and I never miss a chance to learn new crazy things about the mobile world from him.  The latest trick, sharing files via SMS.  Who would’ve thunk it?

Om Malik is on a more interesting track.  He has quit worrying about whether GDrive will change the world and started wondering what’s in it for Google.  After all, times is tough even at the Big “G”, so there better be some real strategic or monetary return for this GDrive thing to make sense.  Om says any ad revenues are meaningless to Google from this source.  They just won’t amount to much.  Here is Om’s view of the grand strategy behind GDrive:

I believe Google is looking to build something unique, a service that it would position as a direct competitor to not only Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Live Mesh services, but to the software giant’s SharePoint services. My guess would be that they would marry GDrive storage with Google Apps and other applications, such as Google Talk. In doing so they’d create a virtual “computing environment” in the cloud.

He goes on to worry about Google getting too big by quoting Mark Evans:

“Before you know it, Google has become a daily and integral part of your digital portfolio. Not that this a bad thing given Google’s products are really good but it should make you think about how dependent you can become on Google for pretty much everything. The downside is you can lose access to a lot of essential information if Google, for whatever reason, locks you out.”

Wow, all that World Domination from a little virtual storage in the Cloud that so far has no remarkable features?  Hmmm.

Sorry Om, Mark, and all the rest, I’m with Larry Dignan.  Get Real.  Big bad Google has achieved minimal penetration with Apps.  In fact, the further they stray from pure web activity, the less successful they seem to be in terms of wiping out competition.

I’ve written about the problems with Google Apps before.  You can’t build a Microsoft Office Killer without being 100% compatible and interoperable, and so far, none of the Office Cloud Competitors are Compatible.  It’s a silly business, really.  I caught up with one of the original Quattro Pro team I hadn’t heard from in years, and we were shaking our heads.  We started out in a tiny little company I founded called Surpass with a team of less than 10 and built a 100% compatible product that Borland bought and turned into Quattro Pro.  Why can’t a giant company like Google manage to build a compatible offering?

As I was reading about GDrive and thinking about what they may hope to gain, I was reminded of another article I read about Google.  Sorry if I’ve lost the link, but there is an analagous scenario out there.  Google has a free 411 service where you can call for information at 1-800-GOOG-411.  Why would Google want a 411 service?  It isn’t even on the web, for crying out loud!

It seems the answer is pretty prosaic.  They wanted to record all kinds of voice snippets that were tied to a limited domain–the list of possible hits for a 411 service.  Doing so would help them perfect technology to improve search on videos and podcasts because they could recognize what was being said in them and search on those words.

Are you beginning to see where I’m going with this?  How does GDrive help Google Apps?  It lets them get a whole bunch of files to test Google Apps compatibility.  As a matter of fact, it does a lot more than that.  It will give Google unprecedented insight into what the world thinks is valuable enough that they want it backed up in the Clouds, or accessible from the Clouds.  They’ll know exactly which file formats to support, and which features of the apps that use the file formats are the most commonly used.  All of that, of course, will be tied to you identity, so they know even more about you.  Are your backups mostly photographs?  That’s valuable information for marketing.  Do you have a ton of spreadsheets?  Another box gets ticked on who you are.  Aha, here is the person with tons of PowerPoint files, could she be an executive?  And this one has lots of Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver, must be a web designer. 

Fascinating stuff.  There’s no end to the Google appetite to map all of the information on every computer anywhere.  GDrive lets them map your desktop.

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