Credible rumors say Google is ready, years late, to launch a Dropbox- and/or Box-like cloud service called Drive. Its impact on IT will depend on the enterprise smarts and hooks Google builds in.
Rumors first surfaced in 2006 about something called "G:Drive," which was supposed to be a place where Google stored all your data -- all of it. Rumors of a Google-provided cloud storage solution continued in 2007 and later, but no concrete products emerged from Google to match them. In 2007, Dropbox was formed; it now has 50 million users.
This time the rumors are more solidly founded. In late March, TalkAndroid.com published a screenshot that offered a download of "Google Drive" for Windows and revealed that new users will get 5 GB of storage upon signing up (vs. Dropbox's 2 GB and Microsoft's SkyDrive's 25 GB). The wording in that screenshot (larger version here) implied that Drive would function pretty much the way Dropbox does, with native clients on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. And last week TechCrunch got their hands on the Mac OSX client for Drive, which attempts to connect to http://drive.google.com. (A server exists at this address but currently just says "Page not found.")
Around the same time, another screenshot surfaced after online diagramming tool Lucidchart added into its user control panel a link to a Google Drive integration. (The link was quickly removed.) This put a different complexion on the unannounced service. Like Box, Google may offer developers an API to integrate Drive into all manner of applications, including enterprise applications. They may already be working with numerous developers towards joint announcements at launch.
Google Drive is widely expected to launch this week, and according to most reports the most likely day is tomorrow.
IT departments will definitely be encountering Drive, whatever its final form; Google's ubiquity and footprint will all but guarantee that. If Drive is integrated with Google Docs and/or Gmail, as seems reasonable, employees will have all the more reason to bring it onto the corporate network, InfoWorld notes.
If Drive emulates most or all of Dropbox's features, then not only will Dropbox need to worry about slowed growth, but this scenario presents the most problems for IT as well. Suppose Drive proves even more simple and compelling to set up and use than Dropbox. Then IT would have to deal with corporate data in an unsecured cloud, but with a new twist. Since Google's business is mining data wherever it can be found, many corporations are not going to want Google's spiders crawling all over their sensitive data for purposes of targeting advertising. Would Google do that? They very well could.
The better outcome for IT will ensue if Google opens up Drive for partner integrations (although for Box this is the nightmare scenario). Then providers of data management, encryption, access control, and so on, can add on to Google's raw storage and render the package more palatable and functional for corporations.
Keep watching http://drive.google.com. Don't worry, there's no chance you will miss the announcement when it comes.