Hell hath no fury like a Google Reader user scorned, it seems. The popular-but-not-popular-enough RSS reading service has offered a dour backdrop to today’s announcement of Google Keep, a note-taking service for Android and the Web. Jokes about Keep’s fate have already echoed throughout the Web, creating a new record for the swing from excitement to doubt over a new service.
From a purely technical perspective Keep seems to be a promising alternative to services like Evernote and Simplenote. Users are able to store notes, lists, and images and have them available across their devices via Google Drive, and Google has built its better-than-Apple’s voice transcription technology directly into the app.
The problem isn’t really technical, though. Google has lost the trust of Reader users who depended on the service for years, investing their time and attention — if not their wallets — in Google’s product only to have it “killed” once the company decided to move on. Google has lost these users’ trust, and it’s easy to see why, even if the sentiment is misguided.
Yet, Reader was never a core business to Google. The service was essentially a gift to people who relied on RSS. Keep probably isn’t going to be a huge money-maker for Google either, but it does have something Reader never did: Google Drive.
Google has a lot invested in Drive. The file synchronization platform powers the producitivity suite formerly known as Google Docs, Google’s answer to Microsoft Office, and goes a long way towards making Google’s long-term bet on cloud computing a reality. Drive is an integral part of Google’s enterprise strategy, and, increasingly, Google’s attempts to push Chrome OS into the mainstream.
A Chrome OS device without Drive would be a veritable nightmare. The baseline Chromebook Pixel only ships with 32 gigabytes of built-in storage. Samsung’s Chromebook ships with only 16 gigabytes of storage — as much as the baseline iPhone 5. Compared to Windows and OS X-running computers, Chrome OS devices are starved for storage.
Drive solves that problem. Chromebook Pixel buyers get 1 terabyte of cloud-based storage for three years, and all Drive users get 5 gigabytes of storage free. That likely isn’t enough for everyone — family photos and videos take up a lot of space — but it’s enough to get users hooked and willing to part with $2.49 or more per month. That provides recurring revenue, allows Chrome OS to better compete with other operating systems, and, with Google Fiber and other high-speed Internet connections, is likely indistinguishable from built-in storage to normal users.
Google can make money with Drive. The company is using the platform to compete with Microsoft, and to form a backbone for Chrome OS. If Keep makes Drive more attractive and proves the service’s worth, it’ll probably be fine. Those saying otherwise simply because a platform that was declining in popularity (according to Google) and easily-replaced (evidenced by the ease of finding a replacement) got the axe is nothing more than the bleating of a grieving user.