Google is opening up its Docs hosted office productivity suite so that users can store any type of file in it, giving the popular software-as-a-service product an important online storage component.
The functionality will be rolled out over the coming weeks to all Docs users, both the ones who use the stand-alone suite as well as those who use it as part of the broader communication and collaboration Apps suite for organizations.
Now, Docs users will be able to store all their important files in a single place online, where they can access them from anywhere and share them with other people, according to Google.
"This is a natural extension and progression of what we've been doing with Google Docs," said Vijay Bangaru, Google Docs product manager.
One thing it's not, according to Bangaru, is the G-drive, the often-rumored cloud storage service from Google that has yet to see the light of day. "On the consumer side, this isn't a virtual drive. There isn't a client that's going to help you sync terabytes to the cloud," he said.
Google did work with some partners that built applications that take advantage of this new functionality via a Docs API (application programming interface). Those external applications were built specifically for users of the Premier version of Apps, which is the most sophisticated and the only one that is fee-based, priced at US$50 per user, per year. Companies that use Apps Premier will also be able to build their own applications in-house using the API.
Just because users will be able to store any type of file on Google Docs doesn't mean, however, that they will necessarily be able to work on those files on the Docs cloud, as is possible in the suite today with Adobe PDF files, Microsoft Office files and, of course, the native Docs file formats.
"Unfortunately, it's not possible to write Web editors for every file content out there," he said. In those cases, users will be able to access the files online and share them with others, but in order to work on them, they'll have to download them to their PCs and fire up the necessary application.
Along with the new capabilities, Google is lifting the ceiling on file sizes to 250MB. Users of the stand-alone Docs suite will have 1GB of free storage for files stored in their native formats, as opposed to converted to a native Docs format. They'll be able to buy additional storage for $0.25 per gigabyte per year. Google Apps users will also get 1GB of storage, and will have the ability to buy additional storage for $3.50 per gigabyte per year.
While Docs currently doesn't have one-click buttons to post or publish files to third-party sites and services like Facebook, Google isn't closing the door on adding that functionality and more.
"The idea behind this feature is that it's really an opportunity for Google to invest in cloud storage and provide value added services to its users around sharing files, uploading files and being able to collaborate and search on all of that content," said Anil Sabharwal, Google Docs product manager. "There's a great opportunity for us to provide value-added services on top of any of those file types."
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