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Google drive cloud to rain on Apple, Dropbox parade

Web giant has our email and docs, might as well hand over everything else

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Never one to miss out on an up-and-coming tech trend, Google is all set to launch its very own cloud storage service, competing with the likes of Dropbox, Microsoft and Apple.

People familiar with the matter were unable to keep schtum and spilled to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), telling it that the Chocolate Factory's new service Drive was getting ready to burst on the scene with online storage for files that can be accessed from any device with a Wi-Fi connection.

Drive will hold onto users' photos, documents and videos in the cloud, so that folks can view them on their laptops, fondleslabs or smartphones to their heart's content. The Chocolate Cloud will also tie in handily with Gmail, letting people who want to email files to each other email links to that file in the electronic ether instead.

As is typical of Google's offerings (initially anyway), Drive will be free to most people who are already firmly entangled in the Factory's world and will only cost for those who want to store "a large amount" of files – whatever that turns out to mean.

Although no one could say that Google hasn't come up with some nifty ideas of its own, it does have a tendency to have a wee glance around the market to check out what people are liking and then come up with its own version of it.

Online storage is becoming handier and handier for people now that they find themselves working a myriad of different machines on the go.

Dropbox, one of the most well-known consumer cloud services, launched in 2007 and now has around 45 million members saving billions of files online. According to its co-founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, the firm also turned down a nine-figure buyout from Apple in 2009.

Apple went on to build its own storage offering, iCloud, but it only works with Apple's software and devices. And Microsoft has a cloud of its own, SkyDrive, which is integrated with its Hotmail in the same way that Google is proposing to use Drive with Gmail.

There's also an expectation that the Chocolate Factory will add Drive to its suite of business offerings, Google Apps, which could see it start to chip away at enterprise cloud solutions.

Most cloud startups need to rent infrastructure space, which many do from Amazon's Web Services. However, Google already has its own networks and plenty of fluffy cloud space for customers, which means it should be able to undercut smaller offerings.

As the Chocolate Factory won't be paying for the space, it will probably offer a bigger wad of free space than either Dropbox, which gives 2GB free, or SkyDrive, which allows 25GB of free space. ®

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