Google has finally released Drive, a new cloud storage option for all Google account holders, offering up to 5 GB worth of free storage. While it may be easy to draw comparisons to Dropbox, Microsoft's SkyDrive, or Amazon Cloud, Google Drive represents the final element of a powerful cloud platform, with services that rival those of Apple's iCloud.

Last year Apple announced its iCloud platform, giving users the ability to sync music, photos, and any other files they might have across all their iOS devices. The announcement was met with varying levels of fanfare. To those unfamiliar with the concept of cloud computing, it seemed like a powerful new tool. To anyone that had used remote storage before, iCloud was underwhelming, as the technology had been around for years.

However, this is Apple we're talking about, which has a tendency to make a phenomenon out of just about anything it releases. So, despite numerous teething problems, Apple reported that more than 20 million had signed up to iCloud in the first five days of the release of iOS5.

Enter Google

Google had been building up its own selection of cloud services for years - Gmail has always offered free storage space to its users, as do services like Google Docs. Having said that, it was with Android that Google truly pushed into Apple territory, giving users the ability to remotely sync music, photos, and contacts with their portable devices. With Drive, Google completes the platform, allowing generic file storage synced across PC and Android devices.

Google has a bit of a modesty issue, having never triumphantly paraded its cloud services to the world, for with Android, cloud services have always been there. This is likely why Google felt it necessary to release a video reminding Android fans that Google's been all cloud for a long time.

Directly comparing iCloud to Google services results in near identical specs. Both offer 5 GB worth of generic storage, both have the ability to sync movies, photos, and music, and both cost nothing to the user. But while iCloud users are required to use iTunes for music and photo syncing, Google Music allows its users to simply select folders on their local hard drive, and any new music is uploaded and synced.

Google Drive also makes it easy to publicly share files and collaborate with other users in real time. And these files can be much larger than iCloud allows - a maximum filesize of 10 GB for Drive compared to just 25 MB for free iCloud accounts, increasing to 250 MB for paid accounts.

Ultimately, the great divider between these two services lies in mobile platform of choice, as it is extremely unlikely that Apple will ever release official iCloud applications for Android devices. However, Google already offers numerous apps for iOS devices with Google Drive apps "coming soon" for iPhone and iPad.

Apple's closed ecosystem that allows it to seamlessly integrate iCloud into iOS (and Mountain Lion) means that the majority of Apple users will probably stick with the "default" option, but Google Drive's wider compatibility and the ability to get a total of 10 GB of free cloud storage by signing up for both could help attract some to Google's offering. For users of existing Google services and Android devices, however, with integration in the "Google bar" found at the top of Gmail and other Google services, Drive seems seems like a winner.

Source: Google Drive

Here's a video from Google showing how Drive works.