Monday, August 20, 2007

Google Charges for Extra E-Mail Storage

Google already offers plenty of free storage with its online services, but that hasn't been enough for some users, prompting Google to roll out extra storage that can be purchased to use with several Google products. Google's extra storage offerings begin with Picassa and Gmail, but will soon expand to other apps, such as Docs & Spreadsheets.

Forget the battle between Microsoft Relevant Products/Services Word and Google Apps for a minute, and set aside the notion of search engine supremacy. Microsoft and Google are now battling for technology enthusiasts in yet another area: online storage.

This week, Microsoft came out with a twist in the online-storage game, renaming its storage service Windows Live SkyDrive and relaunching it with a revamped interface. Google, meanwhile, is offering extra storage options on both Gmail and Picasa.

"As someone who tests Google products daily, I know that the simplest solution is often the one that works best," Ryan Aquino, software quality assurance engineer lead for Picassa, wrote in the Google blog. "In the case of online storage, whether it's a picture, a video, or an e-mail, you should just, well, be able to store it without having to worry about whether you've got enough space in each particular product."

Busting Through the Cap

On Thursday, Google rolled out extra storage that consumers can purchase to use with two Google products. It begins with Picassa Web Albums and Gmail, but will soon expand to include other applications, such as Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Google already offers plenty of free storage, and in fact has been increasing the storage limit steadily, launching in 2004 with 1 GB of storage space and doubling that figure in 2005. Today, the free storage limit is 2.8 GB.

But the latest bump in storage will cost consumers. Plans start at $20 a year for 6 GB of space and peak at 250 GB for $500, making Gmail and Picasa together a bona fide online storage solution.

"The fact of life is that every hard drive will fail. You can't put a cost on the value of your photos and your memories, and that's why people are looking for online backup," said Samir Bhavnani, a research director at Current Analysis West, noting that with the new storage offerings Google is attempting to generate a new revenue stream from its existing user base.

Google's Gmotive

Online data backup isn't the sexist of technologies, but Bhavnani said he expects it to be one of the most talked-about sectors in 2008, thanks to the rise of digital media use. There is plenty of competition in various forms. There are free services out there, as well as more robust offerings from large players such as Symantec.

Of course, Microsoft is a player in this area, as is Apple. The global market for managed security Relevant Products/Services services, which includes online backup, is expected to climb from $2.9 billion in 2006 to $3.7 billion in 2008, according to VerticalScope.

As far as e-mail storage options go, Google's main competitor is Yahoo, and Yahoo might have an advantage.

"The Yahoo e-mail program has undergone a lot of good changes over the past couple of years. It offers the online storage, and it offers more of an Outlook-like feel than Gmail," Bhavnani said. "The Gmail program feels very much like an Internet mail program and the Yahoo program feels more like a desktop application."