Yesterday Microsoft pushed a major UI upgrade for SkyDrive. Among some improvements and a Metro modern interface, the SkyDrive team showed screenshots of the SkyDrive Android app. The app isn’t available just yet but the cross-platform support for SkyDrive makes the service a stronger competitor to popular Dropbox, and Google Drive.
The screenshots shared by the SkyDrive team show that Microsoft has brought Metro modern SkyDrive interface while conforming to Android’s design elements, like they did with iOS. Here are the screenshots shared by Microsoft:
According to Gartner, Android makes up for 64% of the smartphone market with Samsung being the most popular vendor. Given the scale of iOS and Android, SkyDrive being available on both platforms is probably one of Microsoft’s smarter decision for SkyDrive’s future.
In addition to the Android app, the modern SkyDrive has an option that should make several open source enthusiasts happy. Under SkyDrive settings, Microsoft allows users to toggle the default Office file format. The options available are:
Microsoft Office’s .docx, .pptx, .xlsx
Open Document’s .odt, .odp, .ods
When looked along with cross-platform support, making this option prominent is a bold step for Microsoft. Not only does this expose users to an alternative, it also lets a lot of users escape Microsoft’s ecosystem. The Office suite has helped Microsoft’s bottom line and giving users the option to switch is a dicy situation. Nonetheless, the option makes SkyDrive a very interesting option for all users given the new & improved Office Web Apps.
The SkyDrive has been very busy lately. The company recently announced new features and unveiled a new logo. Yesterday morning, the SkyDrive team discussed at length changes and improvements coming in the Metro Modern SkyDrive; hours later, it has gone live. The new SkyDrive blurs the line between a Metro Modern Windows 8 app and a Metro Modern UI website. The behavior and functionality available in the Metro Modern SkyDrive is the next step in personal cloud storage. The service is no longer a dump of files from various desktops that syncs and is available on the web but the service is based on file types.
Three major improvements in the Metro Modern SkyDrive:
Synced desktop browsing
We first saw synced desktop browsing back in October; during BUILD, Microsoft showed what then seemed like a huge feature for SkyDrive. Last night, it went live for everyone. You can now browse a Windows machine that has SkyDrive installed and synced in your browser. This isn’t a Citrix/Team Viewer like control but the Windows file structure can be browsed as it is on the machine, this means your drives and folders as shown in My Computer on that machine.
Unfortunately, you cannot stream music files from your machine within the browser just yet. And neither do the Office files open in Office Web Apps—they have to be downloaded.
Contextual menus & file drag
This is a feature that makes SkyDrive feel more like an app. The menus within SkyDrive will now change based on whether you’re performing a function on a folder or a file.
The Modern SkyDrive will behave much like a desktop app with multi-file selection and drag to arrange. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal when you read but as we are now programmed to drag files around on the desktop, this implementation on the web will only feel natural.
The Modern UI
Big tiles for touch and mouse, clean interface designed based on the Metro Modern principles, SkyDrive now feels like an extension of the new Outlook’s web interface. It departs from the Windows XP/Vista/7 interface that SkyDrive sported and shows why the Metro Modern interface is beautiful.
Here’s a video from the SkyDrive team introducing the Modern SkyDrive:
Are you a Hotmail user? If so, you are so 1996! At least, that is what Microsoft would like you to think. Today, on the Outlook blog, Microsoft announced a modern approach to email called Outlook.com – “modern email designed for the next billion mailboxes”. Below is an introductory video that gives you a brief overview of the new concepts they incorporated in the new Outlook.com.
All of this is pomp and circumstance of course, to get everyone excited about the fall line of Windows 8 related products. Microsoft figures a lot of people are used to using Outlook already and quite frankly, I agree. Now you have the ability to leverage an Outlook type client on the web. If you go to Outlook.com, you can login with your current Hotmail credentials or create a brand new Outlook.com address if you like. See “How to Get Your Own Outlook.com Email Address” article for more details. Once you get logged in, you will notice the screen is a little different than the typical Hotmail setup. If you look at the picture below, you can see the inbox is very much dressed up like the up and coming Windows 8 Metro UI. The colors are vivid and the screen is really clean.
One nifty feature I like is the Quick Views. It is located in the bottom left corner of your Inbox. See the picture below for an example.
If you click on the “Documents” quick view, then all of the emails in your mailbox that have documents attached will be filtered out so you can see them. They even thought of “Shipping Dates”. I thought that was pretty cool. You can even create your own custom views.
At the top of the Outlook.com window is an Outlook icon that has a downward pointing arrow to the right of it. This serves up a menu, pictured below, if you click it. Notice how much it looks like the Windows 8 icons you have been seeing in the Windows 8 developer preview and the Office 2013 Consumer preview.
Basically, you are served up with 4 options. You can view your mail by clicking the “Mail’ icon. If you click the “People” icon, you get a list of your contacts. One big thing that they are pushing is how easily you can integrate Facebook with Outlook.com. If you click the “Calendar” icon, you will get the typical Outlook calendar. Lastly, clicking the SkyDrive icon takes you to your cloud based storage folder that you get by default for signing up with Outlook.com.
Below, you can see the “People” section of Outlook.com. This is basically your contacts folder, but it is extremely connected. Notice below that you can import contacts from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. Outlook.com has absolutely embraced social media.
The calendar is very much like what you’re used to with the desktop version of Outlook. You will see in the picture below, that you manage several views, such as day, month, and year. You can also see a nice “to-do list”. However, did you notice that the calendar says “Hotmail” and “Windows Live” at the top? Looks like there are still a few bugs to work out.
Below, you can see the Skydrive which is basically online storage. Highlighted in red, you can see that you are able to use online versions of Microsoft Office to create and edit documents right there in your Skydrive. By default you get 7GB of online storage for free.
Microsoft also produced a real quick walk-through video if you would like to take a couple of minutes to watch. It is quick, but really shows the new features well.
I think that Microsoft is swinging for the fences with this new line of products. Honestly, I believe that they know this is possibly a do or die situation, as they can’t help but notice that they have lost a lot of market share to Google and Apple. My hope is that they will be able to come into the market with rightly designed products with the right price. If they don’t, I am not so sure they will be a significant contender 10 years from now. However, I am very encouraged by the thought and consideration that they are putting into some of these new roll outs. I guess time will tell.
The SkyDrive twitter account tweeted something interesting on Friday, July 13th about an “Ambassador Program” with a link to a survey. As it turns out, it is a program meant to get the word out about SkyDrive and its practical use in helping simplify people’s lives.
The introduction to the survey talks about the requirements and they are pretty basic. Of course, you need to have passion and motivation to share their thoughts about SkyDrive. In terms of hard metrics, the program requires about eight to ten posts a year. That’s it.
In return, the Ambassadors become part of an inner circle, so they receive SkyDrive product news as well as possible early releases. They also claim that it will increase the online presence and I can only assume that it will be because those posts will be showcased on SkyDrive/Microsoft websites and linked back to the blog. Finally, the Ambassadors will be invited to conferences at Microsoft’s expense.
However, there are certain conditions. Per Microsoft, they are looking for people using SkyDrive only in the following areas:
Real estate (agents, developers or property managers)
Sales, business development, marketing (startup or small business)
Food Enthusiasts (home cooking, restaurateurs)
Parenting (PTA leader, generally awesome Mom or Dad)
Education (teacher/professor, tutor, student group leader)
In addition, they are looking for only five Ambassadors, so after submitting the survey, they plan on interviewing the candidates via Skype and five lucky people will end up becoming SkyDrive Ambassadors.
In the past year or so we have seen SkyDrive go from an underrated, underused service with a lot of potential, to the central piece of Microsoft’s personal cloud strategy. SkyDrive now has enough functionality to compete with the darlings Dropbox and Box on paper, so the next step is to overcome the stigma associated with the brand from its past. This idea seems to be a step in the right direction, to get the right “crowd” to see the benefits of Microsoft’s personal cloud from a real user’s perspective.
Are you going to apply? Let me know, and of course, wish you all the best!
As Microsoft is rebranding Windows Live it looks like the common golden swish across the products will go away. Without a doubt, SkyDrive is now a first-class citizen in Microsoft’s product line-up. Consistent updates to the service, integration across Windows Phone & Windows, cross-platform availability are some signs of how Microsoft sees SkyDrive integral to their future.
During Microsoft’s Surface announcement, Michael Gillet pointed out the new SkyDrive logo and now Microsoft has applied to trademark it. For those who’ve been following Windows Live would know that around Wave 3, the icons introduced a golden swish for all Live products and this followed into subsequent designs. Here is the current SkyDrive icon:
Here’s the new logo as shown on Surface:
The trademarked icon:
The difference is small but for those following Microsoft, goodbye Windows Live, your golden touch will be missed. (The clouds have been moved around too.)
Microsoft’s cloud storage service, SkyDrive, has received several updates in past few weeks, and the progressive updates continue to integrate it well across Windows Phone and Windows. While you can share files on SkyDrive via email, and use your friends’ addresses across Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn using the connected address book, you can also get a link to any file or folder on SkyDrive and send that link to friends. You can choose to let friends edit or add files, or choose to make the link read-only.
Although these SkyDrive links have been shortened by about 40%, recently, SkyDrive enabled shortened URLs for these links using the new http://sdrv.ms domain. The sdrv.ms links are furnished via Microsoft’s partnership with bit.ly. Since, it is bit.ly at the backend, the shortened URLs include additional features like adding a ‘+’ to the end of any short URL to see statistics or generating a QR code for that URL by appending ’.qrcode’.
Select any file or folder on SkyDrive Web, and click on the Share link in the sidebar.
In the Share dialog, click Get a link, and then click the Create button according to the required permissions.
Click the Shorten button next to the generated link to obtain the shortened URL.
SkyDrive URLs also include OpenGraph support so that you get a neat thumbnail preview when you share the links on sites like Facebook.
Microsoft recently updated their SkyDrive service to include a bunch of new features. They introduced apps for Windows and OS X, updated their iOS apps, made the service more like Dropbox and introduced support for more Office file formats. Microsoft engineer Dharmesh Mehta says with all these features it is time the company went “loud” about the service, I agree.
Microsoft doesn’t plan an official SkyDrive app for Android
SkyDrive TV commercials in 6-9 months
Mehta explains that Android users can use the web version of SkyDrive on their phones and that the company has APIs for developers to build SkyDrive functionality in their apps or develop third party clients. I am not sure if I agree with the approach; if the company has the pieces to build an app, they might as well do it. Google Drive and Dropbox are options for Android users as of now, going forward, Google Drive will be deeply integrated. Having presence on both the two largest mobile platforms can only benefit Microsoft; they have a Hotmail app for Android, as such, it would be great if the company had a SkyDrive app to complement it.
Close watchers of Microsoft and SkyDrive will know that Microsoft has been placing SkyDrive in TV shows, adding TV commercials to the mix will definitely be going “loud” regarding SkyDrive.
Dharmesh Mehta assures Hall that the team isn’t done and they have a lot more to talk about in coming months.
SkyDrive allows you to share documents, photos, and files with anyone you choose and it’s automatically available from any device. You can even work together on Office documents in real time. Here’s how to get started:
If you don’t already have one, get a Windows Live ID and you’ll see SkyDrive in the top navigation. Click, and just add files.
Select the file you want to send.
Click Share, and then select the kind of permission you want to give to people you’re sharing files with by checking or unchecking the Recipients can edit box.
The special micro-site allows you to send Ecards to your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or email hinting them that it is annoying when they send attachments in email and asking them to get setup with a SkyDrive account to save themselves and you some time. Forget the marketing pitch, I think I should do this for lot of my old-school friends who send huge files, back and forth, as attachments. SkyDrive, or any online storage service for that matter, is a better way to share files and to collaborate on them.
“Email publishing” — a feature which allows you to publish photos directly to SkyDrive via email — will be discontinued after April 2012 according to an email sent out by Microsoft. The feature, which made its way into SkyDrive from the long-deceased service Windows Live Spaces (rest its soul) allows you to directly publish photos to SkyDrive via email.
Basically, you authorize up to three email addresses to send the photos from, and each SkyDrive album would be assigned an email address (in the firstname.lastname@example.org format.)
I don’t think that this feature would be too missed; until today, I had no idea about its existence at all. In lieu of the demise of email publishing, however, we can all look forward to the massive SkyDrive update which is set to roll out sometime soon. This update is set to introduce desktop clients for both Windows (on Windows 8, an awesome Metro SkyDrive app is available) and OS X, an increased upload size limit, paid storage capacity upgrades, offline functionality, and SkyDrive browsing of remote files, among other things. With Google Drive on the horizon, along with other existing cloud platforms (i.e Dropbox), it’s good to see SkyDrive keeping things competitive. And with the introduction of desktop functionality, it seems like the service may be a worthy competitor to iCloud in terms of an ecosystem cloud utility (let’s just hope for some awesome Windows Phone 8 integration.)
Google’s free cloud based storage service – Google Drive – has been rumored to be in development since years now. However, speculation that it may finally be close to launch has intensified in the last week, after a report by GigaOM stated that it will be launched in April 2012.
While the report stated that it will offer 1 GB of free storage – much less than what Dropbox or Microsoft Skydrive offer, a new leaked screenshot by TalkAndroid suggests that Google Drive will offer 5 GB of free online storage to all users. It also says that it may be launched on April 16.
By offering 5 GB, Google Drive is offering much more than Dropbox officially does, but only a fifth of what Skydrive offers.
Google Drive will work on desktop, tablets, mobiles and also have a web based interface at drive.google.com (which currently throws a 404 error).
It will also offer integration with Google Docs and Google Apps, and will be targeted at individual users, as well as small businesses with multi-user support. It may also be integrated with all Android smartphones going forward, to boost market share and make it the default option for the average Joe.