Taking a glimpse at the future of SkyDrive (from their blog post)

By damaster | In Featured, Opinion | Posted November 27, 2011

SkyDriveOver at the official Inside Windows Live team blog, Omar Shahine and Mike Torres, Group Program Managers for SkyDrive, recently made a blog post analysing some of the stats of the current competitive environment, outlining what they think are the “winning factors” for a personal cloud service, and what (a bad) situation SkyDrive is currently in. However, buried deep in the blog post we think the SkyDrive team is trying to actually set a stage hinting at what will be coming for SkyDrive. In the table below, we will analyse some of these “winning factors” that Omar and Mike talked about in the blog post, and how these translates to what Microsoft sees in the future of SkyDrive:

Winning Factors What will this mean for 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”.
The current Windows Live Mesh software, and the future Windows 8 SkyDrive sync feature, will allow users to sync files directly to the cloud and share them with others. But of course, the current situation with SkyDrive and “SkyDrive synced storage” for Windows Live Mesh doesn’t exactly make it simple for users. Will this change soon?

In addition, to stop people from emailing attachments, we know that the latest version of Hotmail already allow users to upload their documents and photos directly to SkyDrive, and share them with your email recipients. So nothing really surprising here.

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.
This gets a little bit interesting. We previously reported that SkyDrive might soon provide unlimited storage for photos and documents, and 25GB for everything else. I wouldn’t call this “modest amount”, but if true, this would really make SkyDrive one of the best cloud storage provider on the market.

In addition, we’ve also told you that purchasable storage plans are coming to SkyDrive soon.

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.
We’ve previously reported that the SkyDrive team is working on building client apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and of course Windows Phones. In addition to SkyDrive.com, this would make SkyDrive truly cross-browser and cross-platform, allowing you to access your SkyDrive files everywhere on any device.
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.
With the upcoming Windows 8, all your favorite content — Photos, Music, Documents, Contacts, Calendar, Mail, apps and settings — will be synced via SkyDrive (if you choose to) and be able to be accessed anywhere. And best of all, this is built right in to Windows 8, so definitely no “complex setup” is required.
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.
Microsoft Office 2010 already features SkyDrive integration, allowing you to save, open, share and collaborate on documents stored on the cloud.

With the upcoming SkyDrive APIs as part of Live Connect, any developers building apps – whether it be Windows 8 apps, Windows Phone apps, or web services – will be able to utilize SkyDrive for cloud storage to be used within their apps or websites.

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.
After Windows 8 gets released in 2012, and if (and that’s a big if) app and web developers start taking advantage of the newly released SkyDrive APIs, Microsoft is hoping that it would push for a wider adoption for its SkyDrive service.

Given the competitive environment SkyDrive is in, and the team’s delayed realisation on the need to continuously improve and innovate the service, could Microsoft achieve the scale that they’re hoping for?

In addition to the “winning factors” Omar and Mike listed, their latest post also specifically points out several feedbacks and requests from consumers which they have heard “loud and clear”. The table below takes a look at these, and provides a quick analysis on what this means for the future of SkyDrive:

Feedbacks from consumers What will this mean for SkyDrive?
Why are “synced storage” and “My Files” separated? I dream of a day when my docs & files can be together everywhere. We previously reported that devices integration is coming to SkyDrive, and actually saw a demo at BUILD showing how you can directly access files on your PCs (and other devices?) from SkyDrive.com.

What we haven’t yet seen is the merging of SkyDrive’s storage space with Windows Live Mesh’s “synced storage”. If the SkyDrive team has heard this feedback loud and clear, does that mean it’s coming soon?

How do you move files or folders on SkyDrive? Based on what we saw at BUILD, the upcoming update for SkyDrive will come with new right-click options, which presumably will make it easier to navigate and perform file operations on files and folders.
Why limit video size to 100MB when you give us 25GB of storage? Microsoft just recently upgraded the individual file size limit from 50MB to 100MB, but this still pales in comparison to competitive services like Google Docs (10GB) and Dropbox (Unlimited via desktop app, 300MB via website).

Is this a hint that Microsoft will be increasing the individual file size limit again?

We need the ability to share individual files without sharing the entire folder. The demo we saw at BUILD mentioned “simplified file sharing” is coming soon to the upcoming update for SkyDrive. Does that mean we can now choose to share individual files as well as entire folders too?
Please add check-boxes…so people can quickly [manage] content in batches, whether to delete, download or move the selection. We’ve previously reported that check-boxes for multiple-file selections will be available in the upcoming SkyDrive update. And this was confirmed during the SkyDrive demo at BUILD.

With the recent rollout of the Hotmail update, we speculated a few weeks ago that Microsoft might be rolling out an update to its other Windows Live web services, including SkyDrive, very soon. Could Microsoft really transform SkyDrive into a winning product and achieve the scale they’re hoping for? Are we going to see all the improvements and features that we have hoped for? I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the SkyDrive team will bring us.

Posted November 27th, 2011 at 4:22 am