Google soon is expected to launch a major new consumer service offering cloud-based storage for photos and other online content, the BBC reports. The effort—dubbed Google Drive—is likely to offer 5GB of free storage, with more available for a monthly fee. It would challenge existing services such as Dropbox and Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Experts suggest it also could force rival Facebook to enter the cloud market. Cloud services have become hugely popular as people seek to access content from a variety of places and devices. Reports suggest that Google Drive will work with sophisticated image search technology to let consumers sift through a wide variety of document types, including PDF files and photographs. “I would see this as an extension to its Google Docs offering, and it could provide value to its social network Google+, allowing the sharing of files that are too big to eMail,” said Richard Edwards, principal analyst at research firm Ovum. The most important aspect of Google Drive would be how it worked with the myriad of devices people carried, he suggested. “I will be looking to see how I can synchronize content stored in the cloud to all my devices to access as and when I want.”

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