Google Docs: Not Just For Documents Anymore

Every so often, Google announces something to do with file storage at one of its services, and the cry goes up: GDrive ahoy! Here we go again. It’ll soon be possible to storage any type of file in Google Docs. Michael Arrington hails this as the GDrive, even as he is told that the GDrive doesn’t exist.

The GigaOm coverage describes the move as being in line with the long-term GDrive strategy that Google is reported to be focused on. The ReadWriteWeb post doesn’t mention the GD-word at all, but sees that this as major change for Google Docs: now for storage as much as collaboration.

At Mashable, Christina Warren positions the new Google Docs against other cloud storage options, including Google’s own Picasa and independents like Dropbox. Comments (at Mashable and elsewhere) suggest that Google should just buy Dropbox.

Comments also point out that other options seem better than “any file type goes” Google Docs in terms of tools or amount of storage. That may be true, but beside the point. Millions of people have Google accounts, and may be more inclined to use them for storage than to get a new account elsewhere.

Enterprises will also tend to prefer Google, but for other reasons. Google is to the web as IBM was to mainframes: it seems, and may well be, the safe solution. As for other pricing and file size constraints (250 MB max), I’m sure that they will be up for negotiation for large accounts.

Google Gears Grinding Slowly

Almost a year ago, Google released Gears, a browser plugin to enable web applications to work even without internet access. Many of us thought at the time that it was a big deal.

Some of us are still waiting for our Google Docs to get geared up. Google started rolling out Gears for Docs a week ago, but it hasn’t rolled as far as me yet.

Harry McCracken has a good post at PC World about the (so far) Unfulfilled Promise of Google Gears.

The fact that Google itself hasn’t done that much with Gears-enabled applications yet–at least in any form that it’s willing to make public–is probably the best evidence that doing great stuff with Gears is far from a cakewalk… Google is clearly pretty serious about Google Docs (and Google Apps, which rolls in Gmail and other applications). And full-fledged offline functionality would be such a major step forward for Docs and Apps that you gotta think that Google will make it happen if it can.

As for Web developers other than Google, I’m not sure whether they’re struggling with Gears, or whether there’s simply less interest in offline apps than I hoped and guessed there would be.

I hope that the gearing-up of Google Docs will be a turning point (or tipping point, for the trendier among you) for Google Gears. I also hope to be able to try it out soon, and that it works better for me than Google Reader did.