Google announced its Google Drive cloud storage service yesterday and just hours later the service was found to be blocked in China, just like Dropbox and countless other Western Internet services, leaving the door open for local players to dominate the growing space.
While the blocking of the new Google service is not surprising, given Google’s history in China, although Google+ was recently available briefly, the situation means Baidu — China’s own Google-like Web giant — is well placed to take advantage of Chinese Internet users’ growing interest in cloud services.
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Baidu launched its Wangpan cloud storage service in beta in March, unlike Google it restricted the number of initial users by offering just 5,000 invites each day, on a first-come-first-served basis.
On the basics, Wangpan stacks up well against the competition. Google Drive, which is replacing Google Docs, is offering each user 5GB of storage, that’s less than Microsoft’s Skydrive but more than Dropbox. Wangpan offers a whopping basic of 25GB and the chance to further increase that for free via a number of soon-to-be-announced initiatives, Baidu told us last month.
Baidu’s cloud service strategy looks like developing further, with rumors suggesting it will launch its own device powered by ‘Yi’, its fork of Google’s Android operating system. The firm is said to be working with Foxconn to build a Baidu-device, which we presume would integrate with Wangpan, further strengthening the appeal of the device and the storage service.
China has more than 500 million Internet users, making it a hugely attractive market for any Web firm. However the block, and competition from the likes of Baidu, are likely to lock Google Drive out of the country, where usage will be restricted to Google enthusiasts that overcome the block by using VPNs.
China’s cloud service space could be set to grow in a similar way to social media in the country, which is dominated by local firms — like Sina and Tencent — with the door firmly shut for overseas companies.
While Baidu Wangpan is the biggest potential service currently active in China, there are likely to be a number of new services arriving in the market to provide additional options for users, in the same way Instagram, Path and others have been cloned.
Russia is another lucrative market where Google Drive will face fierce competition.
While Google Drive is not blocked in Russia, it will have a tough job rivalling Yandex, which introduced its own cloud storage service earlier this month. Yandex.desk offers a basic 10GB free and syncs with the Yandex product line, which closely mirrors Google’s own Web services but is more popular with Russian Web users.
Baidu told us that it will not provide figures about Wangan until it is available for public use. We contacted Google but the company declined to comment on the blocking of Google Drive in China.