After months of speculation, Google has finally launched its eagerly-anticipated online storage service, which will allow users to upload photos, documents and videos onto the company's servers. From there, users are able to access these files from web-connected devices, such as the iPhone and the new iPad.
Known as Drive, the new service is seen as a key tactical move on the part of Google, which is keen to counter the rise of Dropinbox, one of the most impressive start-up firms in Silicon Valley. Dropinbox is targeted at corporate customers and is seen as a threat to Google by some industry analysts.
Drive is also a reflection of the increasing reach of internet connected mobile devices, such as iPads and smartphones. Through the cloud, consumers are storing their files in virtual data centres, which means they are accessible from more than one device.
Owing to the fact that Drive includes features of the Google Docs online word-processing program, it enables users to edit their files in a web browser. Additionally, users can give other consumers access to their personal files.
"Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiance or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive," explained Sundar Pichai, a Google Senior Vice-President, who is responsible for its Chrome browser and apps.
However, doubts over the tool have already been expressed by Aaron Levie, the Chief Executive of box.com, which aggressively targets corporate customers. In a statement, Mr Levie argued that the ambition of the project "simply isn't in Google's DNA". He added that in contrast to Google, box.com "will continue to be laser-focused on building the simplest, most secure, and scalable way businesses can store and share data in the cloud".
In addition to tackling these fast-growing start-ups, the launch of Drive puts Google in direct competition with Microsoft and Apple, both of which have similar services. While many of the services offered by Drive are already available in some form, the move means that consumers are able to use Google as a storage service. And by aiming the new product at the corporate market, the firm hopes to reap a serious financial reward on the upgrade.