Tag Archives: iCloud

OneDrive Storage Goes Unlimited For Office 365 Subscribers

Remember when OneDrive bumped up their free storage tier and made the storage included with Office 365 1TB from the 25GB that it used to be? Well, that was only a few months ago. Now, as they announced on the OneDrive blog on October 27, Microsoft is making the OneDrive storage unlimited for Office 365 Home, Personal and University subscribers.

The upgrade to unlimited storage rolls out today and there is a priority list for those who would like to see it early. I was one of those, and I got an email later in the day that while the upgrade to unlimited is in progress, the storage in my Office 365 Home account is bumped to 10TB, ten times the current allocation of 1TB.

So now, a customer can potentially get the full desktop Office suite for a PC/Mac, unlock editing features for tablet (iPad), get 60 minutes of Skype world calling to over 60 countries, use Office Online and Office Mobile on smartphones and unlimited storage for only $6.99 per month.

The above deal becomes even sweeter when there is a need for more than one user to be on the subscription. In such a case, a customer can get Office 365 Home which provides the same features for 5 users for $8.33 per month.

This is another move in the trend for cloud storage to become virtually free, tied closely to other services that companies like Microsoft, Google and to some extent, Apple provide. Here’s what Microsoft’s blog post said:

While unlimited storage is another important milestone for OneDrive we believe the true value of cloud storage is only realized when it is tightly integrated with the tools people use to communicate, create, and collaborate, both personally and professionally. That is why unlimited storage is just one small part of our broader promise to deliver a single experience across work and life that helps people store, sync, share, and collaborate on all the files that are important to them, all while meeting the security and compliance needs of even the most stringent organizations.

While Microsoft and Google have been really aggressive with their pricing, Apple has been a little reserved in how aggressive they get with the storage pricing. However, the biggest impact of such pricing moves are the likes of Box and Dropbox. For these companies, storage is a key factor but for platform makers like Microsoft, Google and Apple, adding storage inexpensively is not a big deal. How will Box and Dropbox combat this move? Your guess is as good as mine.

Put That OneDrive Space To Use: Move Music Collection to the Cloud and Stream It

Do you have a ton of space in your OneDrive account and don’t know what you want to do with it? How about taking the bold step of moving your music collection to OneDrive?

Wait a second, you may say. OneDrive does not “support” music files, you may say. Well, maybe not openly and definitely not as a streaming music service could. However, as I coincidentally found out over the weekend, as long as you have the OneDrive app (I tested on Windows Phone, iPhone and Windows 8), you may at least be able to play your music, one song at a time.

Through a variety of promotions and tie-ins, I have almost 240GB of space on my OneDrive, and very soon, it is going to be 1TB because I have an Office 365 Home subscription.

To The Cloud

First though, moving the collection. If you are like me, and have many ways to listen to your collection, and have multiple forms of backup running, you may be wary of moving things around. I took a deep breath and took the plunge, although I knew what I wanted to achieve: move the music to the cloud but not lose the local files, and still continue to back up to my cloud backup service, Crashplan.

So, on my Windows 8 “home server”, I took the music off the data drive and moved it to my OneDrive’s sync location under a convenient location like OneDrive\Music. It took a while to move my 120GB to the cloud, but once I copied it to the location, I let it do its thing uploading the music to OneDrive. This step should be identical if you have Windows 7 (or even a Mac) with the OneDrive sync client installed.

The advantage with this approach as opposed to leaving the music on the home server is that I now have the ability to access my music from virtually any device connected to the internet. At the same time, since the music is still on my home server, I did not lose the ability to play the music from devices on the home network like my Apple TV.

Backup vs Sync

One common confusion is mistaking backup for sync, or vice versa. I think of it this way: I want my important data to be backed up without any manual effort, and I want some of the digital memories synced so that I can access them from anywhere, at anytime. The nuance here being, the backup is a one-way data transfer from my home server to the cloud whereas syncing enables me to add to my music collection from anywhere. So the next time I see a great deal on Amazon Music for a $5 album, I can not only purchase it but also download it and make it available to my other devices.

OneDrive Website Album Listing
OneDrive Website Album Listing
OneDrive Website Download Prompt
OneDrive Website Download Prompt

 

Use the OneDrive apps

Speaking of being able to access from anywhere, what happens when you try to open one of your (DRM-free, of course) audio files? Well, it depends. If you open from a browser, it simply opens the dialog to download the file. This is because the OneDrive web app is not set up for streaming music. It is only meant to interpret documents (Office formats, text and PDF), pictures and video. In the mobile OneDrive apps on the other hand, you can navigate to the folder with the songs, and tap on the actual song and it will start playing the song.

OneDrive iOS App Artists
OneDrive iOS App Artists
OneDrive iOS App Albums
OneDrive iOS App Albums
OneDrive iOS App Songs In Album
OneDrive iOS App Songs In Album
OneDrive iOS App Song Display
OneDrive iOS App Song Display
OneDrive iOS App Streaming Song
OneDrive iOS App Streaming Song
OneDrive iOS App AirPlay Option
OneDrive iOS App AirPlay Option

I hadn’t noticed this earlier, and while this is good, it by no means makes the OneDrive app a music player like Amazon Music app or Google Play Music app. For example, the app does not play an entire folder. It does not understand playlists. When you skip a song, it simply returns you to the folder instead of playing the next song.

OneDrive Windows Phone App Albums
OneDrive Windows Phone App Albums
OneDrive Windows Phone App Album Listing
OneDrive Windows Phone App Album Listing
OneDrive Windows Phone App Streaming Audio
OneDrive Windows Phone App Streaming Audio

 

But the fact that it can now stream (not download and then play) is a good sign that perhaps the OneDrive app may unbundle the photos/videos, documents and music features into their own apps just like Google and Amazon have done. I can see a OneDrive app like it is today, for general storage features, an Office app to only surface the files that Office mobile can open, OneDrive Photo app for pictures and videos, and OneDrive Music or Xbox Music app to surface audio files.

OneDrive Windows 8 App Album Listing
OneDrive Windows 8 App Album Listing
OneDrive Windows 8 App Streaming Music
OneDrive Windows 8 App Streaming Music

 

Owning music vs renting

I say all of the above but I am one of those who has slowly learned to give up trying to deeply control the music collection. I mostly rent music via one or more of the streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, iHeart, etc. I am also a paying subscriber for Xbox Music Pass which lets me play any song from their catalog on-demand. As a result, the real need to listen to music I “own” (because you know, this collection goes way back to the Napster and Kazaa days), has gone down tremendously. There are still some comedians whose performances I have in my collection which are not available on iTunes or Xbox Music catalog. There are also some Bollywood songs which did not match when I tried iTunes Match and also Xbox Music matching, but those are general the exception rather than the rule.

And then there’s services like Apple’s iTunes Match. It allows one to “match” their local collection with iTunes’ catalog and whenever there is a match, iTunes allows you to listen to the songs from any authorized device. The service is not free, but at $25/year it is a small price to pay for hassle-free management of your music collection. It also allows customers to upload the songs which do not match, although the uploaded songs would count against the iCloud storage quota. Once Apple’s newly announced storage plans go in effect, it would be a good idea to let iTunes completely manage the collection, which is taking one more step towards freeing up your collection. Xbox Music advertised long ago that this feature was coming to the service but so far it only does matching but does not allow you to upload unmatched music to the cloud.

Use the cloud, any cloud

To conclude, I recommend that you start thinking about simplifying your data management. Why leave stuff on your hard drive when you can use the cloud? For digital stuff like music and photos, it is better to make the cloud your primary “drive” and sync it to the devices you use. I used OneDrive as an example in this article but feel free to explore the cloud of your choice. It won’t harm going instead with Google, Amazon, or coming soon, Apple because all of the big ecosystem providers understand that providing a reliable storage solution is key to keeping customers “sticky”. Start planning the move to the cloud, as long as your bandwidth permits.

What’s your personal cloud situation? What about owning vs renting music, do you use any of the streaming services? Which ones? Why? Let us know!

OneDrive Increases Free Storage and Office 365 Gets 1TB Free

On June 23, Microsoft announced several updates related to its OneDrive consumer-oriented online storage service including bumping up the free storage tier, reducing costs for purchasing storage dramatically, and adding 1TB to Office 365’s non-business plans.

OneDrive 1TB with Office
OneDrive 1TB with Office

Free Storage

While OneDrive (then called SkyDrive) offered 25GB free long time ago, Microsoft changed the free tierto be a then reasonable 7GB around the time of Windows 8 launch. The reasoning then was 7GB was higher than the competition at the time. Of course, as cost of storage has gone down, and as cloud services become more essential for ecosystems, Google and even Apple, have announced very inexpensive plans for their respective online storage services. Now, Microsoft matches some of the recent competitive updates by making the free tier to be 15GB.

Office 365 Personal, Home and University plans join the 1TB party

Microsoft had already announced that Office 365’s business editions would be getting 1TB of included storage (although that would be under OneDrive for Business, which is not the same product as OneDrive). With this announcement, Office 365’s non-business editions, which is Personal, Home and University, also get 1TB of included storage.

This makes Office 365 a pretty fantastic deal if you have the need for desktop Office, or if you want to be able to edit Office documents on the iPad. Not only does Office 365 now come with 1TB of storage, it always included 60 minutes of free Skype worldwide calling and of course desktop version of the Office suite, as well as edit rights for iPad version of the Office apps. If you have more than one person who needs Office, then Office 365 Home is a killer deal @ $99 per year for 5 users.

Office 365 Consumer Plans
Office 365 Consumer Plans

Reduced prices for additional storage options

Of course, as storage costs have gone down, each of the online storage providers have kept cutting their prices. OneDrive will no longer have the 50GB option since the $100GB option is now at $1.99 per month, down from $7.49 per month. An additional 200GB will be $3.99 per month, down from $11.49 per month.

These are great updates to an already useful storage service. As a reminder, OneDrive has a presence on all platforms, making it a truly universal online storage service: Windows 7, Windows 8.x, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac OS. The price changes were not completely unexpected because it is much easier for a larger company with scale, to keep lowering costs to meet the competition’s prices. I wonder what this means to the likes of Dropbox and Box, especially the former, since it has long been the darling of consumers for being so easy to use, sync and share. With OneDrive (and Google Drive and soon, iCloud) being so front-and-center in those various ecosystems, it will be interesting to see how many consumers will decide to switch away from the smaller companies. We shall see.

Edit: An earlier version of this article stated that OneDrive is perhaps the only service with apps across all platforms. Dropbox and Box also have apps across all platforms. Author meant to say, only one among the big ecosystem providers, but the sentence has been modified to refer to OneDrive by itself.

(Images courtesy OneDrive blog and Office Blogs)

iOS Bulks Up with iOS 8

On June 2, at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled the next version of its iOS mobile operating system among many other announcements. iOS 8 will introduce a bevy of features, many of which have huge platform implications.

Many of the new features, both consumer-facing and developer-oriented, seem to be pointed squarely at the “power users”. Such users are the ones who may have switched to or prefer Android because of a lot of capabilities in that operating system which iOS did not have or allow until now. But let’s just consider it the natural evolution of the iOS platform, now at over 800 million users (a stat Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in his keynote at the event).

Let’s take a look at some of the key features that Android and to a lesser extent, Windows Phone offer, which lure customers to those platforms, and how iOS 8 has responded to those.

  • Third party keyboards
  • Actionable notifications
  • Widgets
  • App-to-app communication and sharing
  • Google services, including the contextual Google Now
  • Larger choice of devices of various form factors, mostly larger screens

Keyboard improvements

Windows Phone introduced Word Flow, which is to this day, the best predictive keyboard I have used. It is a way by which the system can provide the next few words that you may be about to type, based on what you start typing. For example, if you type “how are”, there is a good chance you want to type “you” next, and the predictive nature of the keyboard will prompt “you”, and maybe a couple of other options like “things” or “the”. iOS gets such a feature finally. It is very similar in nature to Word Flow but obviously it is something the iOS keyboard has missed all this time. No more.

iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard
iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard

Third-party keyboards

In what I thought was a surprising move, Apple also announced that they are going to let third parties provide their keyboards so customers can replace the system keyboard with a third-party keyboard. That is huge because the likes of Swiftkey and Swype have made a name for themselves in the Android world, and users of those keyboards claimed it is a big enough reason for them not to move back to iOS. Already, several key names have announced their keyboards are coming to iOS 8, which is not surprising at all.

iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards
iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards

Interactive notifications

Apple’s Notification Center, while a decent imitation of Android’s notification center, is a bit clunky. Even the upcoming Action Center in Windows Phone 8.1 does a better job managing notifications. So it is no surprise that Apple decided to make some changes and one of the big changes is the interactive notifications. Android has this feature already, where quick actions can be taken on notifications that land in the notification center, without opening the apps. Interactive notifications aim to do the same, and more importantly, Apple has decided to open it up to third parties from day one. That means, developers can enable quick actions like Facebook’s Like and Comment, Twitter’s Retweet and Replies, etc. directly in the Notification Center. Obviously it is a big deal on Android because of the productivity gains, and it was about time iOS implemented the same. (As a part-time Windows Phone user, I do hope this feature is on its way on that platform as well. It is badly needed.)

iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party

Widgets

The other big improvement in the iOS Notification Center comes in the form of widgets. This has been another ding against iOS until now because Windows Phone first introduced Live Tiles which enable quick information that app developers can provide to customers via the app icon(s) flipping and updating. Android later added widgets which were sub-sections of the apps that could be placed on a home screen and provided snippets to live information to the customers. With Widgets, iOS 8 somewhat addresses this “gap” by enabling developers to provide live updates, although in the Notification Center, not in the app icon or on the home screen like the competition. So the widget will look like a notification but it will have more real estate and will be able to take more forms vs. a text update. For example, score updates during a game could show the two team names and scores by quarter.

iOS 8 Widgets
iOS 8 Widgets

This is hugely welcome news, for customers and developers alike. For customers, it means more than just text updates and for developers, it is somewhat of a parity with other platforms as well as another way to keep their customers engaged with the app.

As for app-to-app communication, Apple has made it possible for apps to communicate and share data with each other. Although the details are more important than the announcement in terms of how useful this feature is, it is remarkable that after so many years of keep each app limited to itself, Apple has decided to enable inter-app communication which has been a stable in Android as well as Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

When it comes to Google services, they are already available on iOS in the form of various apps, including Google Now. Although this has prompted many customers to consider Android, where the integration with the phone is even tighter, I suspect it will also make it easier for them to make the return trip going from Android back to iOS.

Finally, although perhaps it may be an even more compelling reason for normal users to try Android, there is this thing about larger screen phones. It is rumored and by now almost a given that Apple will be introducing phones with larger screens this Fall, which is usually when they update their hardware. A larger screen iPhone will almost certainly be a hit, if the popularity of large screen devices running Android are any indication. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles the application UI. When they introduced the iPad, they had an elegant (although ugly) option of a “2x” mode. It will be interesting how they handle the larger real estate and yet, make developers’ work to address the larger screen, minimal.

Some other important updates from Apple with regard to iOS, not so much related to Android, but definitely showing signs of bulking up:

iCloud Photo Library

Until now, the Photostream feature backed up photos from all our iDevices automatically, but it was limited in storage. Apple also announced at WWDC that they are moving to an “iCloud Photo Library” which would store all photos *and* videos in full resolution, from all our iDevices. The first 5GB is free but instead of the currently expensive storage purchase options, Apple is also introducing inexpensive storage that can be purchased for what they refer to as iCloud Drive. Effectively, much like SkyDrive camera Roll in the Windows world, and Google+ Photos in the Google/Android world, the iCloud Photo Library is the entire photo library, always available in the cloud and all the Apple (Mac and iOS) devices and Windows 8 PCs. All edits made on one device are instantly available on all other devices. For a company that has not been at the forefront of well-implemented cloud services, the proof of the pudding will lie in the tasting, but as of now, it seems like Apple gets it and is on the right track. Also, in another move that shows Apple is opening up in a way they have not done traditionally, they have enabled other apps to integrate their editing tools and filters within the new Photos app.

iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library

Messaging updates

In what seems like a carpet bomb attack on WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and Snapchat all at once, Apple’s iMessage will now support audio messages, video messages, group messaging and automatically disappearing messages. Apple also added the ability to share location which is very handy when coordinating meetups with groups. So instead of relying on several different apps (and therefore, different logins, different address books, etc.), you can do the same with the default messaging app, only as long as everyone you communicate with is on iPhone :-) But that has been the modus operandi for Apple from day one, so there is nothing out of the ordinary in that strategy.

iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Messages Record Video
iOS 8 Messages Record Video

iOS 8 is claimed to be a bigger update than when Apple announced the mobile App Store and it certainly seems like there are many huge changes coming in iOS 8 for iOS developers which may end up increasing the app quality gap between iOS and Android even more than it is today. iOS is still usually the first platform for mobile developers to build their innovative solutions and experiences. With these changes, despite the rocketing market share of Android devices, Apple is poised to make it even more worthwhile for developers to build for their platform(s).

 

(All images via Apple’s website)

iCloud Now Has over 190 Million Users

Today, during Apple’s quarterly earnings call, the company revealed that iCloud has over 190 million users. That’s up 40 million from the 150 million users the company cited during its last earnings call in July. In April, Apple revealed that a 125 million people were using iCloud.

iCloud is a free service that stores all your content and seamlessly syncs it across all your devices. It replaced the company’s predecessor paid subscription service called MobileMe with a more seamless and free service.

Apple offers users with 5GB of free storage space on iCloud. Users who want more space can pay $20 per year for 10GB of additional storage (for a total of 15GB), $40 for 20GB and $100 for 50GB.

Apple Quietly Increasing iCloud Storage to 25 GB Until the Year 2050?

Last week, we reported that Apple sent out former MobileMe customers regarding their free 25 GB of iCloud storage. The email was a reminder that  their free 25 GB iCloud accounts will be reduced to 5 GB as of September 30.

TUAW is the first one to point out that Apple seems to be quietly increasing iCloud storage to 25 GB until the year 2050. I checked on my iOS devices and this seems to be the case for me too. It seems that Apple is quietly bumping iCloud storage space upgrades for ex-MobileMe users. In the past, Apple has been known to offer cloud storage upgrades for free when their services did not live up to expectations (MobileMe).

To check if your storage plan has been upgraded, launch Settings -> iCloud -> Account on your iOS device. I asked around on Twitter and it seems that only ex-MobileMe users are seeing an upgrade in storage. However, I have not been able to confirm it.

Apple offers free 5 GB of iCloud storage storage for free, but users that are interested in upgrading their storage by purchasing additional storage space can do so through their iOS device iCloud settings, System Preferences on a Mac, or iCloud Control Panel on a PC. Apple offers 10 GB for $20, 20 GB for $40, and 50 GB for $100 and all purchased amounts are added to the base 5 GB storage capacity.

Apple Notifies Former MobileMe Customers of Nearing iCloud Storage Downgrade

Today, Apple has sent out an email notifying former MobileMe customers regarding their free 25 GB of iCloud storage. The email is a reminder that their free 25 GB iCloud accounts will be reduced to 5 GB as of September 30. Apple offers free 5 GB of iCloud storage of storage for free, but MobileMe customers received an additional 20 GB for free when iCloud was first introduced. The offer was initially valid through June 30, 2012, but Apple later extended the offer through the end of September.

Additional information for those wishing to keep their iCloud storage needs below 5 GB can be found in an Apple support document. Users that are interested in upgrading their storage by purchasing additional storage space can do so through their iOS device iCloud settings, System Preferences on a Mac, or iCloud Control Panel on a PC. Apple offers 10 GB for $20, 20 GB for $40, and 50 GB for $100 and all purchased amounts are added to the base 5 GB storage capacity.

Apple to Introduce iCloud with Photo Sharing, Notes and Reminders on iCloud.com

Earlier, we reported that the new Macs may offer a Retina display. Now, The Wall Street Journal now reports that Apple is planning to reveal an upgrade to iCloud at next month’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), with one of the main new features being a photo-sharing functionality.

Apple is also reportedly looking to extend iCloud’s Photostream feature to video, allowing users to access their personal videos through iCloud. In addition, the report confirms that Notes and Reminders will be accessible via iCloud.com. Finally.
The new features will reportedly be revealed at WWDC 2012 and will make their way into iOS 6, which is also expected to be previewed at WWDC.
Sounds like the announcements that will be made at WWDC 2012 will be another milestone for Apple.


[Screenshots] Amazon Joins Consumer Cloud Race With Desktop Clients

In the past few weeks the consumer cloud industry has seen some exciting announcements. Microsoft updated SkyDrive with several useful features like:

  • ODF Support
  • Desktop clients
  • Remote file browsing from within the browser
  • Dropbox-like single folder sync and storage
  • Paid storage
  • Updated mobile apps

These updates were announced just days before Google introduced the much awaited Google Drive. Like SkyDrive, Google’s consumer cloud storage and sync service has:

  • Desktop clients
  • Multi-format support
  • Single folder sync and storage
  • Paid storage

The other big player in cloud storage and cloud products—Amazon—too launched desktop clients for it consumer cloud. Unveiled to little fanfare, Amazon introduced desktop clients for users to upload files to their Cloud Drive account on Amazon. The desktop clients just help you upload the files and there is no Finder or Explorer integration. The Windows and OS X clients are the same, after installation a cloud sits in the taskbar for you to drag files to upload. Some details about Amazon’s cloud drive:

  • Free 5GB
  • Paid expansion up to 1000Gb for $1000 a year
  • An ugly web interface
  • Integration with Amazon’s Cloud Player

Here’s are screenshots of the desktop app:

Tour of the Amazon Cloud Drive app:

Preferences available:

You can download the clients from Amazon’s site.

Microsoft Goes After iDisk Users To Get Them On SkyDrive

Apple introduced MobileMe as a cloud service for iPhone users. A web interface for email, tracking the phone and a cloud storage service called iDisk. Unfortunately for Apple the product was not received as well as the company hoped leading to a complete overhaul of what Apple visioned with iDisk and MobileMe. The new product as most of you’ll might know is called iCloud. As iCloud was rolled out to everyone, existing MobileMe users were asked to migrate to iCloud, the process was not very difficult from what I remember. In fact it was simple enough for me to forget which means there were no complicated steps involved.

Anyhow, Apple will discontinue iDisk in June and expects most of its user to have shifted to iCloud by then. As the date nears, Microsoft is attempting to get some iDisk & iCloud users over to the new SkyDrive. The SkyDrive folks have created two videos explaining how you can move your data from iDisk to SkyDrive and how SkyDrive is better than iCloud.

Video 1: How to move from iDisk to SkyDrive

Video 2: iCloud not enough? Try SkyDrive