The ice in the bath has already melted, Dropbox has left with the pretty girl and Microsoft is throwing up out of the upstairs window. Google is once again late to the party.
Yesterday it launched its cloud service, Google Drive, promising mind-boggling amounts of intangible storage space. The highest option is 16TB. It’s just as well it’s stored in the cloud: if you were to look into that vast ocean of digital space with your naked eye, the overwhelming sense of your own miniscule insignificance would drive you instantly and irrevocably insane.
But has Google left it too late? Dropbox has been all-conquering, recruiting a massive following for both its free (2GB) and paid for options. Google’s free offering is more than twice the size (5GB – Dropbox will probably be forced to follow suit) and its premium tiers are very reasonable. But transferring all of your documents across is a bit of a pain (dragging your cursor across the screen, selecting, copying, pasting… The very thought fills me with a nameless dread).
So why has Google lost the jump on the cloud? It already offers free storage through its Gmail email client: integrating this into a cloud drive seems like a no-brainer. The answer is: that’s just what Google does. Despite its pretensions to be an innovator, Google is more of a tinkerer. For every self-driving car it dreams up, there are dozens of projects lifted from rivals, tweaked and released under its own brand.
Google Search went live a full two years after Alta Vista and Yahoo Search – it became the standard because it was just better. Gmail came years after Hotmail. Android came long after iOS. Google+ trailed so far behind Facebook it has no chance of catching up. None of this is a slight on Google, which has changed the way we think about the web. The world needs tinkerers. Steve Jobs was perhaps the most famous tinkerer of all: a man more interested improving the things around him than creating something new (read Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent article on this here nyr.kr/uPvSQQ).
Google’s cloud service is probably the best on the market right now. But then Gmail is the best email client and it still trails a mile behind Hotmail. There is getting to the party fashionably late and there is turning up in time to help with the cleaning.