April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. stepped up competition with Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in cloud computing, enabling users to store documents, audio clips and videos through a Web connection.
The Google Drive service, beginning today, gives users online storage similar to a hard drive’s, allowing access to files from computers and other devices, said Sundar Pichai, Google senior vice president. As much as 5 gigabytes of cloud-based storage is provided free, while users may pay $2.49 a month for 25 gigabytes and higher fees for more.
Google’s service helps the company expand beyond its search engine and query-based advertising. Apple has a similar offering called iCloud, while Microsoft provides one called SkyDrive. Google, based in Mountain View, California, says its service will encourage users to spend more time online with features that, among other things, enable creation of Web-based documents and sharing of photographs.
“Drive is something we intend to be at the center of our users’ online experience,” Pichai said in an interview by video link. “We see this as a primary place for people to go to create and collaborate and live in the cloud across devices and across applications and have their important data available to them seamlessly.”
Google rose 1.2 percent to $604.52 in New York at 12:33 p.m. The shares had advanced 14 percent in the 12 months through yesterday.
Users can put a Google Drive folder on multiple computers, including those that run on Windows, Macintosh or Android programs. Any document, photo or other file that is dragged onto the folder becomes accessible from almost anywhere, such as from an Android phone or tablet. Google says compatibility with Apple’s iPhone will be added to the service soon.
Once a file is stored, the files can be shared with others or discussed online. In addition, Google Drive is open to third-party applications so users can create, open and share files from a variety of other software programs.
Google aims to make stored files easily searchable. Users can search by using a keyword, as when they use the search engine. The word could be anything from the title of the file to a term in the text of a scanned newspaper article.
The company may find users in the consumer arena, said Aaron Levie, chief executive officer of Los Altos, California-based Box Inc., which targets businesses with its online storage service. More than 100,000 businesses use Box.net and that will be a more-difficult market for Google to compete in, he said.
“We’ve been building a pretty substantial platform and base of enterprise customers over the past seven years; we think we’re in a very strong position,” he said. “GDrive, we think, is going to be just an interesting kind of complement to the market; we think it will be a very competitive product on the consumer side.”
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