Microsoft detailed some ways it plans to change its approach in the marketplace with SkyDrive on Tuesday.
The company admitted that the vast majority of students do not use SkyDrive for their cloud storage. Microsoft provided a slideshow of the “state of personal cloud storage.” In it Microsoft admits that a number of students take advantage of rival services such as Dropbox and Google Docs instead of SkyDrive. “Almost 75% of students use more than one tool to share and collaborate including email, file clouds like Dropbox, and app clouds like Google Docs,” said Microsoft’s Mike Torres in a blog post on Tuesday. To counter this use, Microsoft points out that using Dropbox and Google Docs can “lead to formatting loss, extra steps and versions, or just confusion, since each tool has its own limitations.”
Microsoft also discusses iCloud across multiple devices. “Device clouds like iCloud are useful – but not a perfect fit – since less than 10% of these people have devices all running the same operating system family,” says Torres. “As a result, these people often need to stitch together different cloud services to meet their needs.” Microsoft highlights photo enthusiast use of cloud systems. “Photo enthusiasts can also use app clouds designed for photos, but these have their own challenges,” says Torres. “Often it’s difficult to upload files en masse without file system integration. Also, app clouds can be tied to specific social graphs. What if I want to share my full spring break album only with close friends while sharing certain pictures with Facebook friends? Do I need to upload pictures to multiple places?” he adds.
Microsoft plans to address these issues with what appears to be a hint at the future of Microsoft’s SkyDrive:
- Simple & secure
It would sync the files you have to the cloud and other devices. It would be simple enough to use to share files with anyone so you could finally stop emailing attachments. It would also protect your content using industry leading security measures. In short, you could trust it to “just work”.
- Straightforward and flexible storage limits
It should provide a modest amount of free storage for key scenarios. It should actually make it easy for customers to use this storage – and provide options to purchase more if needed.
- Work across any device
It would be built with the understanding that we want to have our content available anywhere, even if we use devices made by different companies with different operating systems. This is how important services like Hotmail and Skype work, and personal cloud storage should be no different.
- Cloud-enable the entire PC
While it’s critical to support all types of devices, it’s particularly important to connect the billions of PCs in the world to the cloud. The PC is the most popular smart device and stores most of the world’s personal content. A cloud tailored for this device would provide access to all of your content from anywhere, with no complex setup or configuration.
- Work with key apps and services to let you organize, collaborate, and share in new ways
It would work seamlessly and automatically with leading email, productivity, or photo apps to let you organize, collaborate, and share content in entirely new ways. It would also connect with the services you already use for sharing so that you could upload once and share the way you want. It would do all of this while supporting the files you use today and keeping you in control of your content.
- Connects people, content, and devices at scale
In addition to having the right features, the scale of a cloud itself can provide value for customers. Sharing and collaborating is more convenient when more people can connect to a given cloud. Also, people benefit from a cloud that connects content to more apps, and app developers prefer to integrate with clouds that have the most content and connect the most devices.
Microsoft is planning to integrate its SkyDrive and Windows Live ID services with Windows 8. The software giant is planning to offer optional Windows Live sign-in for user accounts as part of Windows 8. The developer preview build of Windows 8 offers some parts of the integration but Microsoft plans to include the following in Windows 8:
- Associate the most commonly used Windows settings with your user account. Saved settings are available on each Windows 8 PC you sign in to
- Windows 8 Metro style app settings and last-used state persist across all Windows 8 PCs linked PCs
- Website and application login credentials are automatically synced across Windows 8 linked PCs
- Automatically sign in to apps and services that use Windows Live ID for authentication
Windows 8 users can choose which settings they would live to sync across their PCs. Settings such as the lock screen picture you’ve chosen or Windows desktop wallpaper, account user tile, browser favourites and explorer settings will sync across all Windows Live ID linked PCs. Microsoft’s outline of the future of SkyDrive on Tuesday appears to hint at even further integration for Windows 8 and beyond. If Microsoft is able to improve the usability of its services and market them in way that’s similar to Apple’s iCloud and the ease of Dropbox then the company will open the doors to a bright future for SkyDrive.