Microsoft has repurposed its SkyDrive cloud storage service for the smartphone, ultrabook and tablet computing age just ahead of the official rollout of Windows 8. The new SkyDrive comes with some snazzy new HTML 5 features that work across Windows and Mac environments, as well as a new app specifically for Android devices.
The move ideally positions Microsoft to compete aggressively against competition in the form of Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, Amazon’s cloud services and fast-moving ventures like Dropbox.
The company has also revealed that its new Outlook.com email service, designed to take on Gmail and stave off competition in the form of Apple’s iCloud, has hit 10m users just one week after its big reveal.
HTML 5 powers the new SkyDrive
SkyDrive.com itself sports a new design and layout for desktop and tablet browsers, instant search, contextual toolbar, thumbnail multi-select, drag-and-drop organisation and HTML 5 sorting.
The updated SkyDrive app for Windows desktop and OS X promises faster uploads and under-the-hood improvement for performance and the removal of bugs.
Microsoft has also revealed a new SkyDrive for Android app that lets users access, upload and share content from Android smartphones.
The software giant has also deployed its SkyDrive API for developers that enables developers to build SkyDrive apps that allow users to store or access any type of file in their SkyDrive folders.
“Over the past months, we’ve shared our approach to building versatile personal cloud storage that can scale to a billion people,” Microsoft’s Chris Jones said in the official Windows blog. “Today, we’re excited to announce the next step towards that vision, and how this brings the SkyDrive desktop apps out of preview.”
In what seems to be an obvious swipe at Google, SkyDrive program manager Omar Shahine emphasised the importance of versatility in cloud storage, averring that users’ files represent possibilities for their own lives and certainly are not there to be scanned to serve advertising.
“The unfinished term paper that stands between you and graduation. The family vacation pictures that may find their way into a photo book for your grandparents. The brilliant (or not so brilliant) business plan ideas that you jotted down at the coffee shop.
“For each person, the possibilities are different. And so is how you capture, organise, access and share across devices and apps. If you’re a student, you might organise homework and notes from each class into subfolders. If you’re a real estate agent, you might keep photo slide shows and documents for each listing together. Or maybe you’d rather just see your recent Office docs or camera roll without worrying about files and folders.
“And when it comes to the devices you choose for work (or play), you might be a journalist who’s inspired to write (at home or work) using Word on your Windows PC or Mac. But when you’re out on assignment, you may only have your phone to take notes on, and an internet café to finish your write-up and share it.
In terms of synching photos to SkyDrive, Shahine says the photo upload experience is 1.7 times faster.
“We think personal cloud storage should create new possibilities, not limit them. So no matter who you are, or what you do, we’ve designed the new SkyDrive for you,” Shahine said.
Microsoft’s Mike Torres said that with the update to SkyDrive.com that’s rolling out over the next 24 hours, Microsoft has taken the same DNA from the SkyDrive Windows 8 app and brought that to the web. “We’ve updated nearly 100pc of the SkyDrive UI to provide a fast and fluid web experience on all browsers and devices.”
The SkyDrive homepage now defaults to a Windows 8-style tile-based layout for folders and files and which features instant search capabilities, a contextual toolbar and the ability to select multiple files in thumbnail view and rearrange them any way you want, including dragging and dropping them into folders.
Since December, more than 4m people have begun using mobile apps to access their SkyDrive from their mobile phones.
The company said an official SkyDrive app for Android phones will be available in just a few weeks. “The Android app is similar to our mobile apps for Windows Phone and iOS and allows you to browse your SkyDrive, upload files to SkyDrive, as well as share SkyDrive files with ‘Send a link.’ You’ll also be able to open SkyDrive files from other apps, as well as upload, save, and share to SkyDrive from other apps,” Torres said.
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