Google's storage service appears close to launch

After a nearly five year wait, Google's long rumored "Gdrive" storage service appears set to take on similar offerings from Microsoft and AOL, according to media sources.

Rumors of such an offering began in earnest last year when the leaked notes to a presentation from CEO Eric Schmidt made a reference to a Google storage platform in March. However, the company would not comment and speculation continued.

Reference to the service -- apparently code named "Platypus" -- again surfaced in August of this year when an employee posted a video with the the lyrics "I've been ready to launch my product since 2002 … At least round here 5 years ain't so long overdue" superimposed on top of the supposed service icon to Google Video.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google's service would offer a small amount of space for free, while additional storage would be made available for a fee. The service would allow a user to access files from any computer with a Web browser, and share them with associates.

Requests for comment and more information were not returned by Google as of press time Tuesday afternoon. However, at least one analyst seemed to think such a service was a logical step for the company.

"If you look at the expansion of Google's services offerings, you realize that the company has been in the storage game for quite some time," AR Communications senior vice president Carmi Levy told BetaNews.

Levy said a host of Google's current services already depend on seamless back-end storage. Additionally, with the Mountain View, Calif. company's hands in so many segments of the Web, it isn't necessarily important that Google make a large profit off this particular service right away.

Such an issue is what has caused so many early players in the sector to fail. "They lived and died on their ability to build a large enough subscription base, and history has proven that the market simply wasn't ready to support subscription-based standalone online storage services," Levy explained.

Instead, as it has done with its other new services, any "Gdrive" offering would be used to support the rest of its product ecosystem, which in turn would drive higher usage of other products.

This has already been tried to some extent by Microsoft through its Windows Live platform, but so far it has failed to gain traction outside of services that already had a large user base to begin with, such as Hotmail. Microsoft offers a storage service called Windows Live Folders, while AOL owns Xdrive.

Levy said that in the end, the purpose of Gdrive is to keep users on its pages for longer periods. This generates more advertising revenue for Google, which is its biggest source of income.

"It is in Google's interest to minimize the amount of time its users spend away from a Google-provided screen," Levy concluded. "A storage service of this type continues to deepen the Google ecosystem."

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