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谷歌计划推出网上数据存储服务

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Google Plans Service To Store Users' Data

Google Inc. wants to offer consumers a new way to store their files on its hard drives, in a strategy that could accelerate a shift to Web-based computing and intensify the Internet company's competition with Microsoft Corp.

Google is preparing a service that would let users store on its computers essentially all of the files they might keep on their personal-computer hard drives -- such as word-processing documents, digital music, video clips and images, say people familiar with the matter. The service could let users access their files via the Internet from different computers and mobile devices when they sign on with a password, and share them online with friends. It could be released as early as a few months from now, one of the people said.

The Mountain View, Calif., company plans to provide some free storage, with additional storage allotments available for a fee, say the people familiar with the matter. Planned pricing isn't known.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on any specific online storage plans beyond what it already offers as part of its email and other services. But she said in a statement that 'storage is an important component of making Web [applications] fit easily into consumers' and business users' lives.'

Google's push underlines a shift in how businesses and consumers approach computing. They are increasingly using the Web to access applications and files stored in massive computer data centers operated by tech companies such as Salesforce.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Google. Such arrangements, made possible by high-speed Internet connections between homes, offices and data centers, aim to ease users' technology headaches and, in some cases, cut their costs.

Other companies offer various Internet-based file storage services, but most have been slow to catch on with businesses and consumers. Some offerings, such as Yahoo Inc.'s Briefcase Web-based storage service, require users to go to a Web page and click through a few screens to upload a new file and set various limits. Other more sophisticated services have remained niche products.

Google's market power and focus on providing easy-to-use services heighten its chances of having an impact. Google is hoping to distinguish itself from existing online storage services partly by simplifying the process for transferring and opening files. Along with a Web-based interface, Google is trying to let users upload and access files directly from their PC desktops and have the file storage behave for consumers more like another hard drive that is handy at all times, say the people familiar with the matter.

Google faces hurdles on issues such as data privacy, copyright, the economics of adding storage capacity and the technical challenges of offering service without interruption. It is still possible that new developments could lead Google to shift tack or shelve plans for the storage offering in the coming months.

The effort -- at one point known internally at Google as 'My Stuff' -- could add to the challenges facing Microsoft's core Windows operating system and Office productivity software businesses by speeding a shift toward Web-based computing. It also has the potential to affect the economics and usage of home computers, lessening consumers' need to buy big hard drives to store and back up all of their files, for example.

One limitation of such an Internet-based storage service is that it isn't accessible when a person's computer or phone is offline, such as when one is in an airplane, though he could still copy required files to the laptop or other device before disconnecting from the Internet.

For Google, one advantage of offering a broad data-storage service would be to potentially draw consumers to existing Google services that compete with Microsoft's Office applications suite, which includes Word, Outlook and Excel.

Google already effectively offers storage for consumers' files through Web applications such as its Docs word-processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications and its Gmail email. Users can upload photos to its Picasa Web Albums photo-hosting service, which provides one gigabyte of free storage. They can purchase from 10 gigabytes to 400 gigabytes additional storage for $20 to $500 per year. This storage can be shared by users' Gmail and Picasa accounts and soon with files for Docs.

Google is hoping the new storage service will help tie together some of its other services through a single search box, says one of the people familiar with the matter. So a user might be able to conduct a single search by keywords to find his own privately stored files, regardless of whether they're accessed through Picasa, Docs or a software program running on the user's computer.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Chris Capossela says the company believes users want both software on their computers and Internet-based services. He said a class of consumers doesn't trust such Web-based storage options, and that Google wouldn't be able to use storage to steer users to its other services if those services aren't great to begin with. 'We've spent so much time and energy understanding how to give customers the utmost assurance of their privacy,' Mr. Capossela said.

For its part, Microsoft offers a test version of a service called Windows Live SkyDrive with one gigabyte of free storage.

It is unclear whether Google plans to display ads as part of the storage service. If it chose to include ads based on the contents of users' files -- as it does with users' Gmail email messages -- that would likely raise red flags for privacy groups and some consumers.

Many businesses have their own policies about storing data online. Consumers can also enjoy a lesser level of legal protection for the privacy of their data when it is on Internet-based file storage services as opposed to just on their own computers, according to Kevin Bankston, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Google says it is aware of privacy concerns. 'It is certainly approached with the utmost sensitivity on our end,' said the Google spokeswoman. 'We have extensive safeguards in place currently to protect our user data and we have a very strong track record in this regard.'

In addition, Google will likely have to address copyright issues. Allowing consumers to share different types of files such as music with other users could trigger the sort of copyright complaints the company already faces over videos on its YouTube video sharing site. One person familiar with the matter says Google is discussing with copyright holders how to approach the issue and has some preliminary solutions.

The company has been tackling technical issues including how to get the storage service to work seamlessly with software on users' computers so it appears like just another hard drive, say the people familiar with the matter.

A document Google inadvertently released on the Web in March 2006 said it was moving toward being able to 'store 100% of user data,' citing 'emails, Web history, pictures, bookmarks' as a few examples. The document referred to what appeared to be unannounced Google initiatives, including one dubbed 'GDrive' and said they could help compete with Microsoft.

谷歌(Google Inc.)计划为用户提供一种将文件存储在硬盘上的新方式,这种策略将加速向基于网络的电脑计算处理的转变,并进一步加剧这家互联网公司与微软(Microsoft Corp.)的竞争。

据知情人士透露,谷歌正在策划一项服务,可让用户在其服务器上存储他们想要保存在自己个人电脑硬盘上的几乎所有文件,如文字处理文件、数码音乐、视频剪辑和图像等。当用户在网上凭借密码登录后,他们就可以在不同的电脑和移动设备上浏览自己的文件,还可以与朋友在线共享。一名知情人士称,这项服务最早可能会在几个月后发布。

知情人士称,这家位于加州芒廷维尤市的公司计划提供一些免费存储空间,额外的存储空间将收取费用。具体的定价计划还不清楚。

除了已经作为电子邮件等服务的组成部分而推出的存储服务,谷歌发言人没有就网络存储计划发表任何评论。但这位发言人表示,“存储是令网络应用轻松融入消费者和商业用户生活之中的要素。”

谷歌的做法凸显出企业和普通消费者在电脑处理方面的变化。这些企业和消费者越来越多通过网络来获取存储在Salesforce.com Inc.、微软和谷歌等公司运营的大型电脑数据中心里的应用软件和文件。这类做法因家庭、办公室和数据中心之间的高速网络连接而成为可能,旨在缓解令用户头痛的技术问题,有时还会节省用户的开支。

还有一些公司也提供基于互联网的文件存储服务,但大多速度太慢,无法满足企业和用户的需要。雅虎(Yahoo Inc.)“公文包”之类的网络存储服务要求用户进入一个网页,点开几个页面才能上传文件,还设置了种种限制。另外一些更为复杂的服务还只是小众产品。

谷歌的实力加上对提供便捷服务的重视令其有望产生更大的影响力。谷歌希望将自己与目前市面上已有的在线存储服务区分开来,方法之一就是简化传输和打开文件的过程。知情人士说,除了基于互联网的界面之外,谷歌还试图让用户直接通过电脑桌面上传和操作文件,并让用户觉得这个文件存储器就像他们电脑上另一个随时可用的硬盘。

谷歌也面临着一些难题,如数据隐私权、版权、增加存储容量的经济帐以及提供不间断服务的技术问题等等。未来几个月中,谷歌仍可能会根据新的进展来调整或搁置这项存储服务计划。

这一计划在谷歌内部被称为“My Stuff”,它可能会推动电脑应用向基于网络的处理转换,从而进一步挑战微软核心的Windows操作系统和Office办公软件业务。该项服务还可能影响家用电脑的支出和使用,比如说,用户可能不再需要购买大容量硬盘来存储和备份所有文件。

这种基于网络的存储服务的局限性在于,如果某人的电脑或手机没有接入互联网,比方说在飞机上的时候,就无法访问网上存储器,不过他可以事先将所需文件复制到笔记本或其他设备上。

对于谷歌而言,提供全面数据存储服务的一大好处是可能会吸引用户使用谷歌现有的服务,这些服务是Word、Outlook和Excel等Office应用软件包的竞争对手。

谷歌已经通过“Docs”文字处理、电子制表、演示工具及Gmail电子邮件等网络应用工具向用户提供文件存储。用户可以将照片上传到谷歌的Picasa网络相册,后者提供1G的免费空间。用户还可以购买10G至400G的额外存储空间,价格为每年20至500美元。用户的Gmail和Picasa帐户可以共享这个存储空间,很快还将与Docs里的文件实现空间共享。

知情人士称,谷歌希望能通过一个小小的搜索框将新的存储服务同其他服务结合起来。这样一来,无论用户是通过Picasa、Docs或是电脑上运行的某个程序访问自己存储的个人文件,都能通过关键词搜索到要找的文件。

微软副总裁克里斯•卡波塞拉(Chris Capossela)表示,公司认为用户既需要电脑上的软件,也需要基于网络的服务。他说,一部分客户不信任这种基于网络的存储服务,而如果谷歌的存储服务一开始不怎么好,就无法吸引用户使用其他服务。卡波塞拉说:“我们花费了很多时间和精力来了解如何尽可能地保护用户隐私。”

微软自身也推出了一项名为Windows Live SkyDrive的服务的测试版,有1G的免费存储空间。

还不清楚谷歌是否计划在其存储服务中播放广告。如果它选择加入基于用户文件内容的广告(就像它对用户Gmail电子邮箱里的信息所做的那样),可能会激怒隐私团体和部分用户。

许多企业对于在线存储数据有自己的规定。Electronic Frontier Foundation的法律事务专员凯文•班克斯通(Kevin Bankston)说,相对于只将文件存储在自己的电脑上而言,在基于互联网的存储服务上保存的数据隐私权受到的法律保护程度较低。

谷歌表示它认识到了人们对隐私权的担忧。谷歌发言人说:“我们当然是极其谨慎地处理这个问题。目前我们有各种安全措施来保护用户的数据,在这方面我们也有着良好的记录。”

除此之外,谷歌可能还要解决版权问题。允许用户共享音乐等各类文件可能引发版权方面的指控,该公司已经因其YouTube视频共享网站上的视频而面临此类指控。知情人士称,谷歌正与版权所有者讨论如何处理这一问题,并有了初步的解决方案。

知情人士称,该公司一直在解决各种技术问题,包括如何让存储服务天衣无缝地配合用户电脑上的其他软件,让人觉得它就像另外一块硬盘。

谷歌在2006年3月低调发布了一份文件,称其正致力于研究如何存储用户的全部数据,如电子邮件、互联网历史记录、图片和书签等。这份文件提到了谷歌的一些尚未公开的举措,包括一个所谓的“GDrive”,并称这将帮助公司在与微软的竞争中占得先机。
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