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Google Launches Google Drive; Pricing, SDK, Ownership Of Content

Google has finally rolled out its long rumored cloud storage service, Google Drive, which allows users to store, create and sync different types of files across platforms. From the looks of it, this service is essentially an improved and rebranded version of its web-based office suite and data storage service Google Docs (which now redirects to Google Drive for users who have upgraded to Google Drive service).

The service is currently available at drive.google.com and offers native apps for Windows, Mac and Android with an iOS version expected in the near future. Further, the next version of Chrome OS will reportedly use Drive as its file system.  Google also noted that visually impaired users can also access Drive with the help of a screen reader.

Pricing: Google is offering new users, 5GB of storage for free with upgrades starting at 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. Interestingly, if a user upgrades to a paid account, his Gmail account also gets automatically upgraded to 25GB. On this occasion, Google also increased the free storage in Gmail from the existing 7.5 GB to 10 GB to all users.

Features: Quite similar to Dropbox, Google Drive allows users to create, sync and store files across different platforms. The service currently allows users to open more than 30 file types natively on a web browser including Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and HD Video. Since Google Docs is built right into the service, Google Drive allows users to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations with others in real time and share files publicly. Expectedly, there is also integration to other Google services, for instance, users can attach photos from Google drive to posts in Google+ and in the future, they will be able to attach files from Google drive directly to emails in their Gmail account and possibly upload videos directly from Drive to YouTube.

Google Drive also offers Optical Character Recognition and Image recognition. That is, users can scan any document or a picture with text and Google Drive will convert them into text files to allow users to search through a specific text in that document or picture. In addition, Google Drive is also offering keyword search and allows users to filter files by various parameters like file type, owner and others.

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Apart from this, Google Drive has desktop apps for Windows and Mac, which work very similar to how Dropbox works, integrated with the native file system. It creates a separate folder on the users’ desktop and syncs all the files from their Google drive to desktop and vice versa.Users can also drag and drop files from their desktop to this folder and later access it through drive.google.com or from other computers and mobile devices.

However, what’s worth noting is that the data in these files is not stored or replicated to one’s computer. Rather, what one sees is just shortcuts to the files on their Google drive, which opens in the respective Google app in the browser.

Google Drive SDK: Along with the Google Drive announcement, Google also released the Google Drive SDK enabling third party app developers to develop web apps for the Google Drive service. At launch, the service has 18 third party apps that has integrated with Drive and these apps will be distributed from the Chrome Web Store. Among the apps, currently available ones include photo editors Aviary and Pixlr, visual diagramming tool Lucidchart, mind maps tool Mindmeister, Online faxing service HelloFax, video editor WeVideo, online publishing service Lulu and AutoCAD WS among others.

Who Owns the Content in Google Drive? In January 2012, Google merged privacy policies of its various products and rolled out a new main privacy policy which covered the majority of their products. Google had stated that it may combine information the users have provided from one service with information from other services. With the launch of Google Drive yesterday, media outlets pointed out that Google owns the content uploaded Google Drive. The crux of the problem was a paragraph in Google’s terms and conditions which states:

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps.

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However, there seems to be an another side which dismissed this problem as ‘Scaremongering’. As pointed out by The Next Web, Google Drive allows one to access files from any device as long as there is an Internet connection, so if the user doesn’t provide the permission to host, store, reproduce content to Google, it would be impossible for them to provide such a service. As far as publicly performing, displaying and distributing content is concerned, while it is quite unclear on the exact definition what ‘public’ is, it could quite possibly mean public places like Internet cafes (Correct us if we are wrong).

Would you use it? Google Drive is actually a late entrant to the cloud storage segment and it will compete against Dropbox which claims to have more than 50 million users, Box which claims to have 10 million users, Microsoft’s SkyDrive which recently launched native apps for Windows, Mac and rolled out paid storage plans and several other cloud storage providers. Therefore its quite difficult to say if the service will get a sizable traction to cause a dent to the existing cloud services. However, this service could prove to be greatly beneficial to users who use Google services heavily in their day-to-day life.

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