After several leaks of upcoming SkyDrive features made the rounds on the internet in the past few days, Microsoft confirmed a bunch of fantastic updates to SkyDrive on their Building Windows 8 blog today.
Let’s look at what was announced in the post by Omar Shahine and Mike Torres, Group Program Managers for SkyDrive:
- Metro-style SkyDrive app for Windows 8
- Windows Explorer integration of SkyDrive
- SkyDrive.com browsing of remote computer files
In addition, several other items were confirmed:
- The SkyDrive desktop app is not limited to Windows 8. It will be supported on Windows 7 and Windows Vista as well. Curiously (and perhaps, deliberately?) no mention of a Mac desktop app, even though the screenshot leaks showed there may be a Mac app coming as well.
- The post also confirmed that SkyDrive, which offers 25GB free as of today, will have the ability to get upgraded. Obviously, no details were mentioned about the pricing or the tiers, but finally we have official confirmation that we will be able to upgrade that storage, so we can use it meaningfully as a “personal cloud”.
- SkyDrive was recently updated to handle file sizes of up to 100MB, but in today’s day and age it could be a limiting factor, especially with videos. Today we have confirmation that we will be able to upload files with sizes up to 2GB!
- With the remote file browsing feature, we also have confirmation that there will be 2-factor authentication required, unless those PCs are trusted PCs.
Finally, because SkyDrive app will be available to any other app in Windows 8 via Charms and Contracts, every app developer now has access to the SkyDrive. Any app which opens and saves documents and photos, will automatically be able to use SkyDrive for the purpose. This will be a wonderful feature for app developers as well as customers, who will have instant access to their SkyDrive files in Windows 8.
What has been announced is much-needed, much-desired, and to a certain extent, quite expected. While it is good to get the official word that all this goodness is coming soon (including some functionality in the Consumer Preview of Windows 8), let’s look at what has not been announced, and what may still be missing.
- Mac client: I already noted above, that they did not mention a Mac app. That is fine, because the post is on Building Windows 8 blog, and not a marketing blog. I think it is safe to assume a Mac app is coming.
- Windows Phone: How much will Windows Phone 8 behave like a Windows 8 PC when it comes to SkyDrive? Will we able to restore settings from SkyDrive? Will my phone show up under “Computers” on SkyDrive.com? Will Windows Phone app developers be able to use SkyDrive “out of the box” like Windows 8 developers?
- Videos support: When it comes to app developers being able to use SkyDrive out of the box, it is only mentioned that apps which open and save documents and photos will be able to use SkyDrive without any additional code. There is no mention of videos. I wonder why.
- Windows Home Server: What happens to Windows Home Server? I have used the “Forget something?” mode as described in the post, to get some files from my Windows Home Server because it provides a remote access feature. With Windows 8’s Storage Spaces feature and SkyDrive.com’s remote streaming/access feature, there is an even lesser incentive to continue with the Windows Home Server. What happens to that SKU? [Hat tip to Mary-Jo Foley who brought up this question on Twitter]
- Entire SkyDrive sync, Offline behavior: The blog post briefly touched upon how SkyDrive app will sync the entire SkyDrive to the local drive of the PC. This is ok in some scenarios, but if the SkyDrive is 100+GB, I would rather not sync the entire SkyDrive. Hopefully, there will be a setting to choose certain folders only, for syncing. Secondly, what happens when the PC is offline? Are only those folders available? I suppose so, but again, it is unclear if there is some level of caching for the non-synced folders, or none at all.
Much has been written about recent revelations of the next version of Macintosh OS, Mountain Lion, incorporating iCloud into the OS. While we knew that Windows 8 had a great response coming with SkyDrive, now we know how exactly. These features will give the Windows ecosystem the much-needed personal cloud, and Microsoft has now immediately addressed the competition, be it iCloud with Mac/iOS, Google’s rumored Google Drive, or storage providers like Dropbox.
Since the past update when they made sharing easier, I have been using SkyDrive as my personal cloud storage to share files and photos with friends and family, as well as a sync solution with Live Mesh. I am excited that they are streamlining the experience with Windows 8, and also making things more integrated to me as a customer.
What do you think? Will you consider using an integrated, in-built solution like SkyDrive over Dropbox? If you are an app developer, would you be more inclined towards using SkyDrive for your apps now that Microsoft has made this information public? Let me know!