Microsoft hints at the future of its SkyDrive cloud, simple and integrated

By Tom Warren, on 22nd Nov 11 8:12 pm with 35 Comments

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.

Winning factors

  • 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.

  • http://www.brandonleblanc.com Brandon LeBlanc

    It looks like the blog post is from Omar Shahine, not Mike Torres?

    • http://twitter.com/MITorres Mike Torres

      It’s from both of us ;)

    • Guest

      Why would you want credit for a post about how badly MS and your team failed?

  • http://twitter.com/kid_jenius Daniel Paulino

    Microsoft better get their lawyers ready, cuz once they’re dominating the market with their 3 screens and a cloud, companies like Novell will try to cash in ;)

    • Guest

      Dude, what are they putting in the water up there?

  • Anonymous

    Sounds very good.  Now hustle MSFT!

  • Anonymous

    Are they removing the file type restriction? Right now the biggest FAIL for SkyDrive is that consumers of the API cannot programmatically upload content unless it is a specific file type (*.doc, *.jpg) which is where I think DropBox wins. Even most Windows Phone apps use DropBox instead of SkyDrive because of this.

    • http://www.philipturnbull.com Phil Turnbull

      Live sync (using Skydrive) allows every file type I’ve tried? I think there is a max file size limit though

    • Anonymous

      Not PST files though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sebastian-Swann/100001887920756 Sebastian Swann

      You can upload any file type you want. I got synced my 3D projects and other things with LiveMesh on SkyDrive. It’s better cos you don’t have to specify special folder, just select any folder from your drive that you want to share and that it.

  • Victor Teles

    This Windows Live integration is actually pretty good in the Developer Preview. I installed the WDP, linked it with my Live ID, months later I installed it again, when I signed in with my Live ID, it remembered what were the preferences I choosed the last time, such as lockscreen wallpaper, applications on my Start Screen and ever Metro-Styled apps configuration. I found it very interesting and working pretty well in a Developer Preview

    • http://twitter.com/RobertCFP Robert Wade

      Same here.  I wasn’t expecting, at initial load & configuration (which was incredibly fast!) to enter my Live ID as my login credential, but I didn’t even hesitate to do so when it asked—it’s exactly how I was hoping it WOULD work.  It pulled down my profile data nicely.  I’m excited to see that Microsoft is taking this exactly as I hoped.  I’m not sure why they can’t expand and simplify Skydrive now, though.  If they recognize the popularity of Google Docs and Dropbox, the easy question to answer is what aspects of each draw customers there instead of the Skydrive and then inculcate those aspects into Skydrive.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001825207750 Jason Hughey

      Ditto! 

  • http://twitter.com/efjay01 Ef Jay

    Less talking, more updating.

  • Guest

    And again MS wakes up years after they have already lost the lead in an area they helped pioneer. Just like mobile. Just like tablets. These changes are welcome but may well be too late. iCloud and Dropbox now have all the momentum. Why is that clown Ballmer still CEO?

    • Emi Cyberschreiber

      because someone like Bill Gates, you know, Microsoft former CEO and current chairman and co-founder, wants him there?

    • Guest

      Good point. He needs to go too. MS is being disrupted and it doesn’t need an incompetent CEO with a partially engaged but still powerful Chairman protecting him.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sebastian-Swann/100001887920756 Sebastian Swann

      They need to adverse more their solutions.

      I recently dropped DropBox for Microsoft LiveMesh. I don’t need to specify special folder and put there my files with MLM. Just add any folder on your HDD you want and ‘voila’.

      But I didn’t knew about it before. I was looking for email manager instead of Outlook and I found Microsoft Live Mail. Only because I had time I readed what rest of the programs in Live collection is doing. But if I wasn’t looking for email manager I would never knew that LiveMesh exists.

    • Guest

      Yes, their marketing sucks as usual. But they also need to iterate and improve much faster. Mesh + Skydrive should have been brought together and simplified much earlier. They’ve done some more of that recently, but it’s still not enough. Read the comment from cmwind on the linked post.  It’s a great example of the many inconsistencies in the current product. These and more have been obvious for years. But instead of having a Steve Jobs who listened to the MobileMe guy describe what the service was meant to do and said ”then why the fuck doesn’t it do all that?” and replaced him on the spot, you have Ballmer, who probably doesn’t know what or why people use either product. So he just delegates it to Sinofksy. And in this particular case the otherwise competent Stevesi has done a very poor job.

    • Anonymous

      Microsoft is coming from behind going to debut a bunch of crazy stuff all at once and amaze people

    • Guest

      That’s my point. They’re always coming from behind, even when they start out years ahead. And instead of focusing on why that is and trying to fix it, they just ignore it and keep congratulating themselves on their tenacity.

    • Anonymous

      It is what it is but i would rather have a well thought out solution that works rather than a rush solution and fixes via service packs. Im tired of those days and I am sure the Windows end users are too thats why they all shifted to MAC’s.

  • http://www.philipturnbull.com Phil Turnbull

    Since Skydrive via Windows Live Sync, my USB keys have been inactive.

  • Anonymous

    I usually defend MS, but I think they need to get their act together here.  Skydrive and Mesh were amazing years ago and could have ruled the world.  But MS kind of sat on things and now more people know about iCloud or Dropbox.  I use to love the Mesh beta, but after it turned into Live Sync I lost interest.  I can’t even remember why.  I think the UI was different and they got rid of some features.  I should take a second look though.

    • http://twitter.com/RobertCFP Robert Wade

      Really?  I use Mesh quite a bit and, in fact, I don’t even have to think about it.  All my PCs & laptops all “mesh” quite transparently.  The only downside is that Mesh, while specifically accessible on the Skyrive frontend, isn’t actually part of the Skydrive storage.  That’s the foul in my book.  And there is no money to make me use the iCloud.  It’s Apple.  And it’s a wanna-be.

    • Guest

      “And there is no money to make me use the iCloud. It’s Apple. And it’s a wanna-be. ”

      It’s also the main competition and works, at least if you’re in the Apple ecosystem. And setup couldn’t be easier.  You don’t have to configure a bunch of stuff, read up to figure out the latest conflicting definition for where Skydrive starts and Mesh ends, etc.

      They nailed it on this second go round. It’s everything MobileMe wasn’t. And MS needs to make its solution similarly easy while retaining the additional functionality that Mesh+Skydrive can offer assuming you invest the time to learn both fully, which few will.

    • Guest

      Unfortunately it’s a pattern at MS that keeps repeating. Identify the need fairly early, build some decent initial products, lose focus, stop investing as seriously, let someone else start building momentum, do little to stop it, finally have an “aha” moment after some competitor finally passes them entirely, then say “oh shit” and spend a huge amount of money trying to reestablish leadership and mindshare, more often than not unsuccessfully lately.

    • http://profiles.google.com/carlosrfonseca Carlos Ribeiro da Fonseca

      “But MS kind of sat on things and now more people know about (…)”

      Hmmm… that reminds me of something, but I can’t seem to remember what it is exactly…

      *cough*Windows Mobile*cough*

  • Anonymous

    Skydrive, although a really good idea is very much poorly executed.. even wetransfer  which is much slower is gaining lot of traction. Why can’t they make something that just works.. 

  • Anonymous

    What I would like to see Microsofts solution to iTunes match cloud based music service. IMO what MS should do is make Zune Sync so basically you just press the sync button on your zune software it will upload your exact Zune settings with your files to the cloud.

    So all you have to do on another computer is sign into Zune with your Live ID and you will see all your songs there you can download them or stream them. This will also apply for phones and Xbox

  • http://openid.tomservo.eu/ Tom Servo

    Maybe if there’d be a decent client app, as well as in-app integration not being ass. Browsing a Skydrive share or opening a document on it in Office takes ages.

  • http://www.mainstreetchatham.com/ JimmyFal

    They need to fix the inability to sync across devices. I still can’t open and edit documents on Skydrive that are in the synced folder. And I still can’t open the synced folder from the phone when launching Skydrive on the phone. I know it’s probably coming and they are justifying it’s absence, just hurry please, it really is the one missing piece from the Skydrive puzzle. I freaking LOVE being able to open stuff on the phone from Skydrive that rocks, but that content isn’t sycned to my pc’s. ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    finally.

  • Bmtbluwv

    I’m a student and always use Skydrive as cloud storage. Recently, the University, I am going to, changes it’s cloud solution into Google.

    At first, I did not want to use Google Doc, but then every time I tried to access Skydrive (Skydrive only, others are fine) from school, the speed was very slow, even until now. Perhaps, they are trying to limit the Skydrive access. After that, I approached Google Doc, unfortunately, I found out that the storage only allows 1GB. Since then, I use Skydrive but the speed in my University is unbearable. 

    Almost forgot to mention, another point on why I’m using Skydrive is the windows phone office integration.  

  • Jnottle

    I would prefer to use SKydrive, but I have an iPhone and not windows phone, so it’s annoying and I switched to Dropbox, if it ever gets IOS support, I will switch back.