Google is rumoured to be on the verge of launching a new cloud-based storage product, which has been described as the search giant's answer to Dropbox.
People familiar with the matter reportedly told The Wall Street Journal that the new service, called Drive, allows users to store photos, documents and videos on Google's servers, allowing them to be accessed and shared from any web-connected device.
Google Drive, which is expected to launch in the coming weeks or months, will be free for most consumers and businesses, but Google will charge a fee to those who want to store large amounts of data, according to the sources. Google has declined to comment on the rumour.
Google has been contemplating launching a cloud-storage service for years, with CEO Larry Page letting slip that the company was working on a so-called "Gdrive" back in 2006, which never materialised. Google also unveiled a file storage system in 2010 for Google Apps users, but that was limited to 1GB at launch.
Last year the company announced that Google Apps users could buy additional storage, but that this could only be used by the worker in question. There are are a range of storage boosters available, ranging from 20GB to 1TB. The feature is formally called User Managed Storage.
Google Drive is also expected to be added to the Apps suite of online software, which Google sells to businesses. This would make it competitive with Box.net, which also sells cloud storage to small and medium businesses.
Services such as Dropbox and Box.net have rapidly been gaining popularity, due to their ability to synchronise video, pictures and music across phones, cameras and other connected devices. Unlike the other cloud systems, Dropbox doesn't need a web browser interface, as it will run natively on almost any PC (including Linux) or device platform.
Apple launched its own Dropbox rival in 2011, known as iCloud, which is comprised of several parts: sync and backup for iOS devices, a server that pushes your contacts, calendar, mail, notes or reminders to all your devices and remote access to all your iTunes purchases.