In Online Storage, Microsoft and Google Make It Easy To Ignore them

Oh, both companies offer free online storage. But for companies that manufacturer storage hardware, and their channel partners who deliver storage solutions on the desktop and beyond, there is no need to worry just yet.

Take a look at Microsoft's Windows Live Skydrive Beta, for example. Skydrive is a free online storage service that provides 1 GB of capacity. Ok, you say, you get more capacity on a thumb drive these days. But the idea has potential for online collaboration and file sharing. As one part of a suite services in Microsoft's "Live" platform, Skydrive could unlock a lot of collaboration potential when it comes to productivity apps or more. It allows you to create file folders and invite colleagues and friends to share your files and data.

But Skydrive, at least in Beta form, doesn't yet do the job. A task as simple as uploading two, 20-MB PDF files took 12 minutes yesterday with a broadband connection to an Intel Core Duo-based notebook running Windows XP. Not only that, one of the uploads failed with no explanation as to why. Compared to the Yahoo! Briefcase, a service Yahoo! has offered for years and years, Skydrive was absolutely painful. (Although Yahoo! only offers 30 MB of free storage.)

Advantage, Google, right? Yes and no.

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After all the conjecture for more than a year about Google's "GDrive" for online storage, the company came out with a pay service for online storage earlier this year. It's a tiered service. For $20 a year, you get 10 GB of storage. For $400 a year, Google gives you a half-terabyte of storage. For free though, to compare with Skydrive, Google offers more than 5 GB of free storage online -- the catch is that it's allocated for Gmail or its Picasa online photo service only. (It should be noted that Google, separately, provides a lot of free text storage for its Google Docs applications, with some file-size limits.)

So Microsoft Skydrive allows you a choice of what kind of files to store, it just doesn't seem to work that great yet. Google works fine, but it's got very limited flexibility unless Google gets paid.

And if someone is going to pay for mobile storage, you might as talk about something like the Western Digital Passport, a 160 GB (or more) USB 2.0-based portable hard drive that is mobile, performs well and gets the job done.

MORE: This report, quoting anonymous sources, suggests that Google may be preparing a new offering in a few months. (Perhaps in response to Microsoft's Skydrive.) However, that story is hazy as to how Google would distinguish a new service from its already-for-sale pay storage service.