Google Drive Is One Cloud Too Many
Reading today about Google’s plans to finally launch Drive, a cloud-based file storage service, encouraged some ironic blue-sky thinking. Microsoft’s got SkyDrive, Apple devices get iCloud and there’s the ever-ubiquitous Dropbox, which has more than 50 million users across the world and has recently been invested in by Bono and The Edge, the two most annoying men in rock and roll. Discussions on Twitter point to Google Drive integrating with the huge number of cloud-based services the Silicon Valley giant already gives to users for free, which begs the question - why bother?
The variety of services Google already provides is staggering to the point of being overwhelming. Users can collaborate live on Word documents and spreadsheets using Google Docs and, if still on Google+, can even have their phone automatically upload all of their photos to the service for safe-keeping. Google Music, when/if it’s launched in the UK, will allow users to stash 20,000 tracks in the cloud for streaming on mobile phones. And then there’s Picasa Web Albums, Gmail, Google Calendar…the list goes on. Google’s cloud services are a menagerie of tools with great purposes in mind when they act independently. Trying to integrate them all into this other cloud service is a headache waiting to happen.
And even if the service does launch successfully with decent integration, how many people will make the leap? Spotify Premium allows for any and all music tracks on the service to be stored offline on phones and music players, rather than just those that the user owns, and Dropbox is compatible with every single device under the sun and now offers automatic phone and digital camera backup - and these can all be shared with a link requiring no registration.
When it comes to using Google services, my actual use of them varies. Gmail is an obvious candidate for regular use because it’s genuinely useful - the same goes for Google Docs and Google Calendar. But for cloud file access and backup without batting an eyelid, I use Dropbox. The desktop integration means that sharing files on a regular basis is drag-and-drop simple, and I can take a photo on my phone and have it sitting on my hard drive moments later.
I do also use iCloud, simply because it’s there and it’s very well-integrated with both my laptop and my iPad. It’s a comfort to know that photos and other things are saved, more than anything, and being able to write something in the pure and focused iA Writer and see it appear on my laptop for formatting is hugely convenient. But cloud apps on my phone, like Google Docs and the like, generally go unused, and two-step verification to keep my Google account secure makes every log-in on a new computer a pain.
In short, Google Drive’s problem is penetrating the barrier of usability and necessity. With so many distinct ”cloud-plus” services (collaborative emails and shared calendars) already available, what use is an extra storage space when there are companies doing it better? For ease-of-use and practicality, Google has their work cut out when Drive launches, and I won’t find myself using it too often when there’s so many other services out there doing it better or with a better sense of purpose.