Sundar Pichai announced Google Drive this morning:
Today, we’re introducing Google Drive—a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you’re working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive. You can upload and access all of your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and beyond.
Steven Levy wrote in his book, In The Plex:
At the time, Google was about to launch a project it had been developing for more than a year, a free cloud-based storage service called GDrive. But Sundar had concluded that it was an artefact of the style of computing that Google was about to usher out the door. He went to Bradley Horowitz, the executive in charge of the project, and said, “I don’t think we need GDrive anymore”. Horowitz asked why not. “Files are so 1990”, said Pichai. “I don’t think we need files anymore”.
Horowitz was stunned. “Not need files anymore?”.
“Think about it”, said Pichai. “You just want to get information into the cloud. When people use our Google Docs, there are no more files. You just start editing in the cloud, and there’s never a file”.
I believe Levy was referring to around late 2008, when Google was about to launch Google Chrome. A lot has happened between now and then. If I recall correctly, Dropbox was launched in TechCrunch50 conference in September 2008. It was just shortly around the time after Google decided to axe GDrive. I don’t think Dropbox gained much traction until around a year after it was launched.
I personally think that file systems are going to go away. Pro users who need them will always be able to access it, but casual users won’t have to know it’s there. Not that many people understand file systems; I think it is one of the most difficult concept when someone starts learning how to use computers. I think users can work without file systems; iOS is a great proof of that. People have been using iOS for almost 5 years, and yet no one wants Finder for iOS. I do agree that the subset of things that iOS can do is still far less than the things that you can do with desktop OS, but what matters is that that subset of things are what most people use computers for. Even Google’s own OS, Chrome OS, does not have a concept of file systems.
So why launch Google Drive now? Did Pichai thought it was a mistake not to launch it back then? Pichai might have been right all along not to launch Google Drive, or maybe he’s kicking himself while watching Dropbox’s success. Who knows. What matters now is they think that they need to be in this business. If Pichai’s initial thesis that users don’t need files anymore still stands, then Google Drive is probably not being targeted to the entire Google user base.
There is one feature of Google Drive though, that I really like:
Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Let’s say you upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping. You can search for a word from the text of the actual article. We also use image recognition so that if you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip into Drive, you can later search for [grand canyon] and photos of its gorges should pop up.
I might as well start using Google Drive when it launches, if it’s not for this stupid thing.