Windows Live SkyDrive is the underdog of Microsoft’s Windows Live suite of web services and applications since it launched in 2007. While similar services like DropBox garner a lot of fans, an iCloud announcement from Cupertino gets favorable press. However, with 25GB free storage space offered and over 100 million users, I think SkyDrive deserves better.
The latest release announced today may just be the trigger to usher SkyDrive to the next level. The release, built on HTML5 and incorporating recent browser advances, is faster, easier to navigate, and provides a great experience for viewing photos. The refreshed experience will help users to use SkyDrive as a single service for sharing across Windows, Office, and mobile devices including Windows Phone, iPhone and Android.
The best part of the relaunch announcement? The latest refresh is already rolling out to customers worldwide. I had the new SkyDrive in about 10 minutes of the press release.
By using caching and hardware acceleration, the latest release of SkyDrive reduces the time to perform common tasks like clicking a folder. Microsoft claims that the time it takes to perform such tasks will drop from 6-9 seconds down to 100-300 milliseconds. The speed is evident as I clicked across folders, uploaded files, and created new documents to test a few scenarios.
The new SkyDrive brings together all photos, docs, and files into one view and the layout is consistent with Hotmail’s Quick views feature while the navigational elements are borrowed from Windows. Also, this release adds a useful information pane in place of ads. Yes, SkyDrive is ad-free now.
Internet Explorer 9 + Windows 7
With Internet Explorer 9 on Windows 7, you can pin SkyDrive to your taskbar for quick access to your files and create Office documents stored on SkyDrive via Office Web Apps in just one click using Jumplist.
The new SkyDrive can compete with the best of photo sharing and storage services in terms of feature offerings and the experience.
The photos are arranged in neat squares using CSS3 Transitions and there is no pagination. With infinite scrolling like Bing’s image search, it looks and feels like a native application. Within the photo-albums, the photos are presented in their original aspect ratio and as best-fits. While viewing your albums, the folder icon is replaced by a slideshow of thumbnails of contents of that album. Also, using the HTML5 video tag, SkyDrive now supports playback of H.264 videos (up to 100 MB).
Earlier this month, Microsoft announced deeper integration between SkyDrive and Windows Phone with the Mango release later this year. With that release, users will be able to share photos stored on SkyDrive via email, text, or IM and the Office hub would bring instant access to documents to allow users to view folders and files directly on their phone.