This Tuesday, we saw Google announce Google Drive, whose very existence has been the subject of much debate. At first glance, it seems like Google is simply doing what other companies are scrambling to do -- get on the cloud storage bandwagon. As a brand new service, it's got a pretty decent 5GB of free storage that keeps it competitive with rivals like Dropbox, Box, Apple's iCloud and Microsoft's Skydrive (whose response is to up their storage capacity to a whopping 25GB).
However, it seems that Google has something big up their sleeve -- namely Chrome OS. Chrome OS is still a fledgeling operating system that hasn't really taken off. According to Wired, Chrome OS is a Google effort to lift data and applications onto the web itself. For certain tasks, an extremely lightweight operating system like Chrome OS makes sense, but for some fundamental tasks like moving files around, Chrome OS fails miserably. That's where Google Drive will step in.
By integrating Chrome OS with Google Drive — the online storage service Google introduced on Tuesday — the company seeks to correct this problem. “With Chromebooks, [Google Drive] is even more powerful,” Google's Senior Vice President, Sundar Pichai says, “because it just starts working naturally. Your local drive is also Google Drive. This makes it really powerful because you just don’t think about it.”
What that means is that on Chrome OS (starting from version 20), Google Drive will be tightly integrated into Chrome OS, and will sync completely with your Chrome OS local drive. According to Google's Google Drive product manager, Scott Johnson, you can even use Google Drive to store data generated by core OS functionality. Simply put, you can use Google Drive exactly like how you would use Chrome OS's local drive.
Users with their Google Drive enabled will also realize that Google Drive works with some 3rd party apps right out of the box. You can create slides using SlideRocket, edit pictures using Pixlr Editor as well as many other functions you'd expect only to find on conventional operating systems. So now that Google Drive completes the picture that is Chrome OS, will we be seeing accelerated Chrome OS development? As of now, most of us won't have much experience with Chrome OS, but all signs point strongly towards Chrome OS being a force to be reckoned with in the future, if Google's Pichai is to be believed.
As recounted in Steven’s Levy’s In the Plex, Google was on the verge of releasing a GDrive storage service several years ago, but Sundar Pichai was among the Googlers who were against launching the service — apparently because it was little more than a way of storing files. “The point I made was that files — in and of themselves — don’t matter,” Pichai remembers. “What matters is applications.”
But the new GDrive, he says, takes a different tack. “This version of GDrive is deeply tied to how we think about Google Docs,” he says. “The focus is on applications — powerful applications — that let people live and work in the cloud, create and collaborate. We started by letting people upload files to Google Docs, and GDrive is an evolution of this. It’s a place where you go to create and collaborate and share documents…Users are not just looking for file systems and storage.”