Look out, Dropbox. On Monday, Microsoft announced new options for personal cloud storage
on the newest version of its SkyDrive service.
SkyDrive's position in the emerging Windows 8 ecosystem was outlined by the company in February. The new announcement highlights new storage applications , applications to connect devices, and the ability to grab any file from a Windows PC via the cloud. A preview of a new Windows desktop app is now available, and it enables management of a user's personal SkyDrive directly from Windows Explorer on Windows 7, 8, or Vista.
7 GB of Storage
With the new app, any files placed into the SkyDrive folder is automatically synced to other devices. Files and folders can be organized in SkyDrive as one might organize a regular folder or files.
A remote PC with this preview app will enable a user to access, browse, or stream files on that computer, from SkyDrive. SkyDrive apps have also been updated for Windows Phone and iOS devices, and there's a new preview client for Mac OS X Lion, allowing SkyDrive management from that platform.
All new SkyDrive users can get 7 GB of storage free, which Microsoft said in a statement "provides enough space for over 99 percent of people to store their entire Office document library and share photos for several years," with room to grow. This is the equivalent, the company said, of over 20,000 Office documents or 7,000 photos.
Previous users of SkyDrive could use up to 25 GB, and Microsoft said previous users can opt to keep the 25 GB allocation. Anyone already using more than 4 GB as of April 1 is automatically opted into the 25 GB free storage offer.
Files or folders up to 2 GB can be uploaded, and there is a pricing structure for additional storage, starting at 20 GB for $10 annually and going up to 100 GB for $50 per year.
The Cloud Race
SkyDrive has been around since 2007, but Microsoft acknowledged that it wasn't until December of last year, when SkyDrive apps for Windows Phone and Apple's iPhone were released, that SkyDrive began to offer first-rate experiences.
Microsoft is clearly in a cloud race with other major companies, as cloud services become standard components of apps, platforms, and devices.
Samsung, for instance, is expected to announce its S-Cloud service on May 3, when it unveils its new Galaxy smartphone. Google will reportedly announce this week its online storage platform and service, Google Drive.
Similar online storage models have emerged from three other large companies. Apple's iCloud, Amazon's Cloud Drive, and Microsoft's SkyDrive are also competing in this space.
Box.net, an independent storage service that currently offers 5 GB free, has begun targeting business markets with its OneCloud service. OneCloud offers applications targeted at enterprises, designed to allow content creating and sharing through mobile devices.
There is also jockeying taking place among device manufacturers to offer online storage service options as an added-value, such as HTC and Asus for some of their products. Meanwhile, the open-source cloud operating system OpenStack has recently been gaining steam, and its wider adoption could help to propel cloud services.