Google is planning an online storage and backup service that would essentially offer people a Web-based hard drive for accessing and sharing information that resides in their home computers.
The product would be a kind of umbrella service for the storage Google already offers with some of its Web-based applications, such as e-mail and photo sharing, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, quoting anonymous sources. No timetable was given, and there was no guarantee that future developments wouldn't cause Google to shift tack or cancel the project.
Google has declined comment on the report.
Online storage and backup services aren't new to the Web. Google rivals Microsoft and Yahoo offer services called SkyDrive and Briefcase, respectively. In addition, there are a variety of niche players, such as Box.net; and companies like Mozy that provide a fairly extensive backup service.
Google, however, believes it can differentiate itself by developing a user interface that's easier to use than other services. One obstacle that Google may not find a way around is the slow upload times for many broadband connections, particularly DSL. If a person, for example, creates large video files, then it may take hours, if not more than a day, to upload files to Google, like any other online storage service.
The report on the effort, which according to the Wall Street Journal was known internally at Google as "My Stuff," comes three months after Google started offering paid storage options for its Web applications. Users of Picasa Web Albums and Gmail, for example, could pay annual fees of $20 for 6 Gbytes, $75 for 25 Gbytes, $250 for 100 Gbytes, and $500 for 250 Gbytes. Picasa offers 1 Gbyte of free storage, and Gmail gives users 2.8 Gbytes at no charge.
Google unveiled its storage options shortly after Microsoft launched its free online storage service SkyDrive, which offers 500 Mbytes. At about the same time, Apple upgraded its .Mac service to include 10 Gbytes for $100 per year.
It's unclear how Google's new offering would compete in price and features with its competitors' services. But the growing number of online storage options indicates vendors see a lucrative opportunity. In the case of Google, knowing more of what's in a person's hard drive could broaden the possibilities for targeted advertising.