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Google Drive to Launch Tuesday?

Google's service is expected to offer 5GB of free online storage and up to a maximum 100GB for premium users.

Google's expected new Dropbox competitor, Drive, may launch as early as Tuesday, offering 5GB of free online storage and up to a maximum 100GB for premium users, according to an online report. Speculation about Google Drive has been circulating for years, but reports about the service have increased in frequency since February.

The expected new service would most likely reside at drive.google.com, and let you store a number of different file types including images and documents. It's not clear whether Google would also let you store music and videos on the service since the company already offers an online storage solution for music. Google may also bring advanced search technology to Drive including image-based search, according to an anonymous official who spoke to Reuters.

If Drive does launch in the coming days, it will enter a crowded field of popular storage solutions that include Dropbox, Box, and Microsoft's SkyDrive. Google's purported online storage offering would be comparable to its rivals in terms of Drive's free 5GB online storage offering. Box offers non-business users 5GB of free storage. A recently overhauled SkyDrive downgrades its users to 7GB instead of 25GB, but longtime users can reclaim their old storage limit by visiting this SkyDrive page.

Dropbox offers 2GB of free online storage, as well as an extra 3GB for its new automatic photo upload feature. The extra storage is doled out to users in 500MB increments as needed. Dropbox also offers free 500MB increments up to a maximum 18GB for users who can convince their friends and colleagues to sign up for the service.

Drive Pricing

There's no word on how much Google might charge for its supposed 100GB maximum on Drive. The company offers 80 GB of online storage that can be shared across all its products including Picasa Web Albums, Google Docs, and Gmail for $20 per year and 200GB for $50 per year. That's already cheaper than the competition such as Box's $240 per year charge for 50GB of storage. The new SkyDrive charges $50 per year for 100GB and Dropbox will cost you $100 per year for 50GB. The maximum amount of online storage Google currently offers is 16TB for $4,096.

The Folder's the Thing

Users can already store any file they want on Google Docs, and images can be stored and shared from Picasa Web Albums. So why would Google offer a Dropbox-style competitor when it sells online storage to store content on its Web-based apps?

It appears that Google wants to replicate the simplicity that made Dropbox such a popular solution for so many users. Instead of being a connected drive, webpage or some other solution, Dropbox is simply another folder on your computer that happens to sync with an online storage solution. Google Drive appears to be designed to operate as a Dropbox-like folder, based on a purportedly leaked screenshot of the new service obtained by Talk Android. The screenshot shows a simple splash page advertising "Google Drive for Windows," an app that "installs in seconds" and syncs your documents to the cloud as well as other connected devices.

If Google Drive does launch in the next few days it's unclear what would happen to Google's current online storage offerings or how Drive would integrate with Web apps such as Google Docs and Gmail.

Reuters' recent report follows a similar article by The Next Web that also claimed Google could launch Drive as early as Tuesday. The report said the new service would be ready for Mac, Windows, Android and iOS devices at launch but there was no mention of a Linux client for Google Drive.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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