Google releases Drive for Work: unlimited storage, $10 per month

Google is pushing hard to get into the enterprise. Yesterday, Google announced at the I/O conference a new version of Google Drive, the company’s file sync-and-share application. The new version — called Drive for Work — comes with new administrative controls and new APIs so that administrative apps will be able to track what employees are doing on their Drive for Work devices.

But the biggest news is price: for accounts with five users or more, Drive for Work offers unlimited storage for $10 per month per user, and support for files of 5TB in size. In some industries — like engineering, manufacturing, and architecture, complex files can grow very large, so this is clearly an effort to target those sectors.

In the new economics of storage, there is no more sense in charging us for storing our files in the cloud than charging us for using the storage on our laptops, tablets, or phones. It’s become part of the bargain inherent in buying their devices, and using their platforms and services.
The limit of 5 users is meant to cut off personal use, but I don’t see this limit lasting long, considering Windows announcement earlier this week (see my presciently titled The price of cloud file storage is trending toward zero from 24 July), and the Amazon offer of unlimited storage of photos for Amazon Fire users.

I am predicting that the majors — Apple, Google, Microsoft — will all come to realize what Microsoft’s Omar Shahine said when announcing the new prices for OneDrive:

The landscape is changing to the point that we believe it’s no longer enough to provide only cloud storage — that’s table stakes.

In the new economics of storage, there is no more sense in charging us for storing our files in the cloud than charging us for using the storage on our laptops, tablets, or phones. It’s become part of the bargain inherent in buying their devices, and using their platforms and services. It’s exactly parallel to Apple giving away operating system updates. The majors will give away the cloud storage to get us to pay for something that is not a commodity: connection to other people, and sharing our work and lives with them.

I predict before the end of the year all the services will offer unlimited storage for all plans, and the positioning will be below $5 per user per month, and the message will be that the users are paying for the other services they offer, like document editing and coediting. And this will have enormous impacts on the other non-major players, like Dropbox, Box, and the long list of companies chasing enterprise file sync-and-share.

Google also announced that Quickoffice — the tool that edits native Office documents — has now been baked into Chrome, when using the Office Compatibility Mode. It seems that this is only available on Android devices for the present. (It is certainly not working in my Google Drive, which is not Google Drive for Work, however.)

Along those lines, Google offered a new ‘suggested edits‘ feature, a more powerful approach than simply making edits to a shared Google document. This is where the real non-commoditized value lies, now: not in file sync-and-share.

And the company also unveiled Android for Work, a means to partition work and personal data and apps on devices running Android L, the upcoming update. This is clearly intended to counter the general perception that iOS is more secure and enterprise-ready than Android. Again, this will likely change the dynamics in the crowded market for secure file sync-and-share offerings.

Relevant Analyst
Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst, future of work Gigaom Research and stoweboyd.com

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