Can you feel that? It's a change in the weather, signaling that the clouds are realigning. In this case, it's a cloud of unknown size, forming on Google's servers and spreading out to cover every single Google account out there. And, presumably, to help out Google Apps users who haven't already implemented shared space for their users.Editor's note: We are operating on an educated assumption that Google Drive is on the horizon. It is possible Google could pull the rug out from under us.
Google Drive, as it's seemingly called, could include anywhere from 1GB to 5GB of server space, provided by Google, for users to store any file they want. GigaOm cited "well-placed sources familiar with the company's plans" in relaying the 1GB size. Om Malik also expects a local software syncing client, and for the web interface to look much like Google Docs (although all Google products are starting to look like Docs).
That conflicts somewhat with screenshots picked up from a tipster by the Talk Android blog: one on March 27 showing a Windows installer touting 2GB of space, and another two days later, suggesting 5GB. Language on the installer and download page suggests that Google Drive will work much as its established competitor, Dropbox. It will be accessible on the web and most platforms, have instant syncing and version control, and come with an API for third-party apps to send and retrieve files from the service.
Size doesn't matter
For some users, 1, 2, 5, or 10GB of storage hardly matters. However, one of the more interesting tidbits, which has had the least amount of coverage, comes from GigaOm's sources: the Google Drive "will launch for Google Apps customers and will be domain specific as well." Right now, storage for individual Google Apps users is handled the same way as for individual Google accounts.
Each Google account, Apps or not, right now, gets around 7.5GB of space on Google's servers for Gmail storage. Google Docs grants 1GB of free-for-all space. Picasa Web Albums and Google+ photo and video uploads offer 1GB, but only big photos and videos count. If you want more, you pay a pretty paltry $5 or so for 20GB to share among apps per year (which, for disclosure's sake, I do), $20 for 80GB, and so on.
So would the Google Drive offering, whatever it is, count toward that limit? It seems to me like Drive would be its own space allotment. Very few Gmail users approach the limits of their account, at least from anecdotal experience. For example, even after more than five years of use and a summer spent trading huge TIF image files with the editor of Google+: The Missing Manual, my Gmail account is using only 4GB of its 7.5GB allotment. So it seems that Google can ably afford to offer Drive space as an incentive for businesses to switch to its Apps platform.
Now, businesses that have relatively simple file-sharing needs can simply rely on Google to manage that, too, for them. And one area where you could see some really creative and useful utilization of that central space is in the Google Apps Marketplace.
Companies can stash all the images, typefaces, and other elements needed for marketing materials in one folder, so that Constant Contact, for example, doesn't require a host of "Hey do you have" emails. Lots of apps already offer document management solutions within Apps, but now every Apps installation has a little working space to start with, before deciding it needs a more complex infrastructure.
What can you see Google doing with Google Drive to make it a boon to Apps? What would you hope it does for your own Apps setup?
Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.