Levie says cloud storage will become more important for many big technology companies. “If you were a company offering an operating system or large collection of online products, you want consumers’ data in your platform, because it makes you more sticky and able to connect everything together,” he says.
The way Google Drive is designed underlines that view. It is meant to be a place where you can work with data and documents, not just store them. More than 30 types of document can be viewed from the Google Drive site, including many video and image formats, and office documents can be edited there, too. Computer vision algorithms make it possible to search text in any images uploaded to Google Drive, and even to search for common objects such as the Eiffel Tower.
In an interview earlier this year, Dropbox founder Drew Houston told Technology Review that he was trying to build “the Internet’s file system.” “Whether it’s your TV or your camera or the apps on your phone, we want to make it easy for anything that consumes or creates data to be able to plug in,” he said.
Levie predicts intense competition between Google, Microsoft, Apple, and smaller companies such as Dropbox. But so far, Apple, Microsoft, and Google seem primarily focused on consumers rather than businesses. Levie thinks that leaves Box room to grow into a large business. Cloud storage for companies needs to be more customized and complex than a service that just stores and syncs photos and personal files, he claims, to allow integration with corporate working practices and greater control over security and access privileges. Google Drive will integrate with the company’s Apps service, which offers e-mail and online document editing for businesses, but this is not seen as a major business for Google compared to advertising revenue driven by its services for everyday Web users.