Google launches storage service for personal files

The Internet search leader began its pursuit of the audacious goal yesterday with the much-anticipated debut of Google Drive, a product that stores personal documents, photos, videos and a wide range of other digital content on Google's computers.

By keeping files in massive data centers, users will be able to call up the information on their smartphones, tablet computers, laptops and just about any other Internet-connected device. Content can also be more easily shared among friends, family and co-workers by sending links to the information instead of emailing large attachments. Google Drive is offering the first five gigabytes of storage per account for free.

Additional storage will be sold for prices starting at USD 2.49 per month for 25 gigabytes up to USD 49.99 per month for one terabyte, equivalent to five laptops with 200-gigabyte drives. The service is initially available for installation on Windows-based computers, Mac computers, laptops running on Google's Chrome operating system and smartphones powered by Google's Android software. A version compatible with Apple Inc.'s hot-selling iPhone and iPad is due in the next few weeks.

It may be several weeks before Google Drive is available throughout the world. Offering online storage is part of a technological shift away from storing personal files on a single machine in a home or office to entrusting them to computing hubs accessible just about any time at any place with Internet access. The concept has become popularly known as "cloud computing." For all its technological know-how, Google is a late arrival in what is shaping up into the Internet's version of storage wars.

Other combatants with a head start include two other technology heavyweights, Apple and Microsoft Corp, and pioneering startups such as Dropbox Inc and Box Inc. Google is hoping to further differentiate its storage service by equipping it with more convenient and powerful tools. Google Drive will draw upon the company's expertise in Internet technology for text and images to make it easier to find data quickly. It also includes optical character recognition that can search for specific words contained in scanned newspapers or other sources. Google Inc, which is based in Mountain View, California, is entering the fray five years after word first leaked out that the company was developing an online file storage service, then called Gdrive. 

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