When Google announced Google Drive, it seemed like nothing new. Dropbox had already established the storage locker industry, and they were doing well. It wasn’t immediately clear why Google was getting into this game. After all, they already had the wildly successful Google Docs and Google Music, both of which acted essentially as storage lockers, for documents and for music. In addition, Gmail comes with 10GB of free storage. Why the general locker?
As it turns out, desktop users might not be the primary target of Google Drive. It could very well be mobile users, both on smartphones and tablets. A reliable cloud service could be just what Google needs to get a leg up on the competition.
One of the bigger complaints with early Android devices was the lack of on-board memory. Even the Nexus One, heralded as the best Android handset of its time, had a lack of built-in storage. Worse, Android 2.1 didn’t allow for native SD card app storage. Unless you rooted your device, you were stuck with precious little room for apps and other on-device features.
Memory has since expanded, but it gets quite expensive. To date there aren’t many Android smartphones with more than 16GB of internal memory. Even the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the largest Android handset, has only 16GB on board. That’s enough for some, but it’s not serious storage. Tablets have room to fit more memory, but even then capacity tends to max out at 64GB. That might seem like a lot, but compare it to the average laptop, which now ships with at least 500GB of storage, and oftentimes has a full terabyte.
The current solution for on-board memory is to supplement it with a microSD card. This is one advantage Android has over Apple, which does not include an SD card slot on the iPhone. While 32GB SD cards are most common, they are available in up to 64GB. This provides ample memory to supplement on-board, but it has its downfalls. SD cards are notoriously unreliable and fragile. They’re good for basic storage, but they shouldn’t be trusted with anything important.
While it’s not completely feasible now, the end goal for most manufacturers is to have mobile products completely replace laptop computers. In fact, tablets represent the next evolutionary step of laptops. We’ve seen laptops get smaller and more efficient, especially in the last few years. The next thing to remove is the hinged screen, which leaves us with the prototype for a tablet.
In a few years tablets and smartphones together will work to replace laptops and other portable computing devices. They can’t now for a number of reasons, including:
It is here that Google Drive can help bridge the gap.
If manufacturers can’t fit ample storage in the device itself, remote storage is the only solution. Google Drive might not seem to provide a solution here, since it provides only 5GB of storage. Yet that represents only the free allotment. Google offers huge storage upgrades for Drive, including 100GB for $5 per month, or $60 per year. That’s a nominal fee for considerable cloud storage space — half what Dropbox covers.
Google has a huge advantage over competitors when it comes to remote storage: security. We hear all the time how this or that service was hacked. Dropbox, in fact, was hacked over the summer. Google, on the other hand, has much tighter security protocols. You might hear about Gmail accounts being hacked, but that’s often the result of users having easy to crack passwords. All in all Google offers enterprise level cloud hosting solutions, such as you might see at IBM.
The security issue will make people comfortable with storing their files online. That 100GB can stretch a long way, too. Without the need to store high-volume applications such as Microsoft Word, cloud storage can be used just for personal files. Do you know how long it takes to fill 100GB of documents, music, and videos? Done legally it’s quite expensive to buy that much media. The 100GB solution is more than enough for most heavy tablet and smartphone users.
Yes, the smartphone does play a role here as well. Tablets have increasingly become WiFi-only devices. Customers just don’t seem as interested in cellular connected tablets. Perhaps they will in the future, but if they have a smartphone it might not be necessary. Most of the major U.S. cellular carriers now allow free tethering. That allows the smartphone to interact with the tablet in many ways — including allowing it to download and view files in cloud storage.
The result is 100GB of data that is accessible nearly anywhere. With an Android smartphone and tablet, users can create quite a similar experience to that of a laptop. Once consumers start to view tablets in the same way as they do laptops, the market will shift.
That’s when we will see a real winner of the mobile race. It might seem like Apple is out to a big lead right now, but Android is well positioned for a market shift. Google Drive might be a big part of it.