Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why a 'Google Web Drive' Won't Kill Windows, the PC or Anything Else

By Scott Gilbertson January 27, 2009 12:05:46 PM

google.jpgRumors of the GDrive, Google's supposed answer to online file storage, are bubbling up again. The fabled GDrive is by far the most clamored-for Google service that, so far anyway, has yet to see the light of day. We've been hearing about a Google Drive online storage solution for years, but lately some tell-tale signs seem to point toward GDrive becoming a reality.

First there was the menu item in Google's Mac version of Picasa — among the sync options is something called "Google Web Drive," which currently does nothing — and now both Google Blogoscoped and Google Operating System, have dug up more evidence pointing toward GDrive's seemingly imminent arrival.

You might be thinking, what's the big deal? Why is TGDaily so excited they want you to throw away your hard drive (recommended only for hyperbolic journalists)?

After all, DropBox and its ilk already offer pretty much what GDrive is rumored to be — it just isn't Google doing the file hosting.

Aside from Google fan boys finally getting what they've been salivating over for years, what advantages would GDrive offer? Well, according to what Google Blogoscoped discovered last week it looks like Google may be planing to slowly turn Google Docs into a web interface for GDrive.

That would mean that, assuming it works like DropBox, in addition to the storage and sync features, you'd get the web-based document editing tools of Google Docs. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, presumably client-side software for Windows and Mac would mean you could work on your documents in traditional desktop apps as well.

Sync clients would also mean that you essentially have a local backup of your documents, making for quick easy access even when there's no network connection.

The advantage of such as scenario is that the PC you're using at the moment becomes increasingly irrelevant — you can always sync all your docs onto any PC for anywhere access to your files. As Gadget Lab points out, that's a huge win for the thriving netbook market, where manufacturers sacrifice drive space to keep costs down.

It's also a win for anyone who uses multiple PCs, since the biggest hassle of having two machines is keeping your files in sync (never mind that tools like Subversion, CVS and rsync worked out most of these problems ages ago).

So what's not to love? Well, for one thing DropBox already does all that (except for the Google Docs integration), but the real issues are the same ones that DropBox faces. There are two essential problems with the whole cloud computing paradigm that no one has really solved.

The first is trust. It's one thing to trust your e-mail to Google, it's another thing to trust the company with the entirety of your digital life. Forget problems of security and privacy, even the basic issue of server downtime leaves many people cold.

The other big issue with online storage is that, for most of us, documents like spreadsheets, word processor files and the other formats that Google Docs understands are not what's taking up the majority of space on our drives. Is the fabled GDrive going to store and sync my 200 or so gigabytes of mp3 files? For free? Somehow I doubt it. What about movies? If you're like most of us GDrive will likely affect only your Documents folder — maybe four or five gigs worth of files, but hardly a substitute for your hard drive. Microsoft's Live Sync service already offers exactly that and it hasn't changed the way we use Windows, nor has it made us throw out our hard drives.

The fabled Google Drive might be handy for those of you who want a better way to sync files to Google Docs, but it probably isn't going to replace the hard drive. TGDaily's fantasy of a network bootable GDrive will be great when fiber optic lines reach our doorsteps, but, in the mean time, most of us have work to do, and unless you want to spend all day booting up, we suggest hanging onto your hard drive. And if you don't feel like waiting for Google to get around to GDrive, there's always DropBox, Windows Live Sync and myriad of other options already available.

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