Google Drive reaction roundup: It's good, but what took it so long?

Google's cloud storage service garners positive reviews but fails to break major new ground

The general reaction to Google Drive from the tech press today can be summed up thusly: "We like it, but couldn't it have been released two years ago?"

Is Google Drive ready for prime time?

This sentiment was most succinctly expressed by Buzzfeed's Matt Buchanan, who began his take on Google Drive by nothing that it has taken "years of hints, teasing, rumors and speculation" before Google finally decided to unveil its cloud storage service to the public. And while Buchanan said that the service is unlikely to win many converts from those who have already pledged their loyalty to Dropbox, it will likely expand the scope of the cloud storage market by winning over frequent Google users who haven't yet taken the plunge and put their data in the cloud.

"If it works the way it's supposed to ... I suspect it'll be the first new Google product in a long time that everybody loves, in the same way they love Gmail," he wrote.

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ANALYSIS: Yes, IT departments should worry about Google Drive

TechCrunch's Sarah Perez took a more caustic attitude toward Google's oft-rumored, belatedly released storage service, however, by noting that Google's dawdling meant that "other startups came in to fill the voice left by our drag-and-drop to the cloud needs." She also said that Google Drive didn't do anything to really differentiate it from its more-established competitors and thus might suffer the same fate as the Google+ social networking site.

"It's no longer tapping into the pent-up, unsatisfied demand for a decent cloud storage and sync service," she concluded. "People who use Google Docs may try it, but if they're already satisfied with the alternatives ... they may just skip it."

Cory Gunther of the Android Community blog said that Google needed to do more work on its mobile user interface if it wanted Drive to be a true competitor with Dropbox. The biggest issue with the mobile version of the service, said Gunther, was the lack of user control over how to best organize data. Instead of being able to create multiple subfolders to separate different data for different projects, everything he uploaded onto the cloud got lumped into the same folder. While the full desktop version does allow the creation of new folders, Gunther noted that it defeats the purpose of having your files available everywhere if you can't organize them the same way everywhere.

"I'm not seeing options to create folders or anything intuitive like that on the mobile app," he said. "Everything I upload goes to one central location instead of separate areas. ... With Dropbox I can send documents to a documents folder, videos to the same, app backups to a backup folder and even create new ones."

Despite his quibbles, though, Gunther did says that he was "really liking the quickness of uploads, the ease of use and the entire system as a whole."

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg also had a generally positive impression of Google Drive and in particular singled out the service's search features, which are able to not only search for keywords within documents but scan pictures for text and well-known images that it can use to deliver search results. For instance, just having a picture of the Eiffel Tower without anything labeling it as such would be enough to get it to show up in a search query for "Eiffel." However, Mossberg said that the search component did not work as well when searching for more generic terms within pictures. In other words, if you had a picture of something that was obviously a mountain, the search engine wouldn't retrieve it if you searched for "mountain."

"I found this mostly worked with photos of famous places or people Google has collected via its Google Goggles product," he said. "Google Drive failed to find images with generic file names on almost all of my own pictures, even when they included things like mountains or other common objects."

And finally, Wired's Mike Barton noted that Google Drive was far more targeted toward the enterprise than anyone had expected. Among other things, Google Drive features centralized management tools that let IT departments manage data through their Google Apps control panel, encryption for data sent from browsers to Google cloud servers and data replication that ensures users will have access to data even if one of Google's major data centers goes down.

"That consumery-feature appeal has a shirt and tie on ... or at least a polo shirt and khakis, as it is being pitched as part of Google Apps for Business," he said. "Google Drive's appeal to small and medium-size businesses seems clear."

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.