102 Google Offers
Users Free 2gigs - A Big Step to Expand Its Offerings
SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc. plans to
double the capacity of its e-mail in-boxes today as the
online search giant ups the ante in its fight with Microsoft
Corp. and Yahoo Inc. for the loyalty of Web surfers.
Google plans to give users of its
Gmail service 2 gigabytes of storage for messages, digital
photos and other attachments. The company plans to continue
expanding the limit as fast as technology allows, a Google
executive said Thursday.
The move is a nod to the day when
people will be able stash reams of digital goodies &emdash;
music, movies and other files -- online.
Many people, of course, will never
come close to storing that much data. Yahoo spokeswoman
Karen Mahon suggested that Google's hike may afford it
little more than bragging rights: "For many e-mail users,
anything beyond 1 gigabyte is just a number. It's like
adding a bucket of water into the ocean."
But a Google executive said some
users already had hit the threshold or come close, and many
more increasingly are using Gmail to send themselves Word
documents, photos and other digital files that they want to
access from other computers.
"We hope it's a change in how people
think about this part of e-mail," said Gmail product
development director Georges Harik.
Google's upgrade comes on the
one-year anniversary of Gmail's launch and underscores the
race between the company and its rivals. Even as the prices
of data storage systems drop dramatically, Google is
investing heavily to create an unmatched storage network to
attract users and attack competitors.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based
search giant disclosed Wednesday that it planned to spend
$500 million this year on computers and other equipment, a
57% jump from last year, to offer new services.
"Its infrastructure, not just search
technology, is its most important competitive strategic
advantage," UBS Investment Research analyst Ben Schachter
wrote in a report.
Other Internet giants have failed to
keep up. Yahoo and Microsoft offer 250 megabytes to users of
their free e-mail services. Yahoo is upgrading to 1 gigabyte
at the end of April and charges $19.99 a year for 2
gigabytes of storage.
The more customers use Gmail to store
their files, the less likely they are to switch to other
free e-mail services, said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst
with Creative Strategies Inc.
He and other analysts said it was no
stretch to think that Google might use its vast network to
take that one step further and create an online storage
service that copies computer files and makes them available
through any Web-connected device. It already offers a
desktop search program that indexes the contents of computer
"There's no question that they would
like to be the center of your digital life," Bajarin
Google also hinted in its annual
report at another growing battleground for Net titans: maps
and driving directions. In documents filed with the
Securities and Exchange Commission, Google said it spent $56
million in cash and stock to acquire four companies last
year. It did not name them in the filing, but a spokesman
said three of the four related to mapping services.
The company had publicly announced
the acquisition of Keyhole Corp., which uses aerial and
satellite photos to let users zoom in on particular places.
But it had not disclosed the acquisition of Zipdash, whose
service delivers real-time traffic conditions to mobile
phones, or of Where2, which it used to help create its
Google Maps service.
Shares of Google rose 6 cents
Thursday to $180.51 on Nasdaq.
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