Microsoft Extends SkyDrive Mobile Support to iPhone, iPad
In an surprising move, Microsoft on Tuesday made its consumer-oriented SkyDrive cloud storage service available for Apple mobile devices, as well its own Windows Phone devices.
While Microsoft had previously promised a version of SkyDrive with Windows Phone 7.5 (previously code-named "Mango"), the support for Apple's mobile products was a bit unexpected. Microsoft also offered mobile client support for non-Microsoft platforms on Monday, when it released released Lync 2010 for Apple's iPhone and iPad, Android smartphones and Symbian devices, in addition to Windows Phone.
Version 1.0 of the SkyDrive app for Windows Phone is available for download at the Windows Phone Marketplace here. The app works with the Windows Phone 7.5 release. SkyDrive 1.0 for iPhone, iPad and touch-based iPod is available at the online Apple Store here. It can be downloaded in 32 language versions, according to Microsoft.
SkyDrive offers up to 25 GB of free storage space in the Internet cloud. It's long been available for Windows 7 and Vista PC users, who can use it to store documents with Office Web Apps or with the free suite of Windows Live Essentials 2011 applications.
Users of SkyDrive get access to storage space hosted by Microsoft in a datacenter, which is accessed over the Internet. However, SkyDrive also can be used as a part of applications. For instance, Windows 8 enables developers to build access to SkyDrive within their applications.
More broadly, Microsoft sees personal cloud storage services, such as SkyDrive, falling into three categories. One approach allows user access to the traditional file-and-folder user interface, which Microsoft calls "file clouds." A second approach, called "device clouds," only enables a device-centric view of storage. Lastly, some applications are designed to use cloud storage from the onset, which Microsoft describes as "app clouds," according to this Windows Live blog post.
For this release of SkyDrive for Windows Phone, Microsoft has added traditional file management capabilities for the first time. Instead of just using the Office Hub or Pictures Hub in Windows Phone to organize files, whole file collections can be organized.
The SkyDrive app for iPhone uses Apple's user interface. It allows users to create folders and delete files, as well as share files and folders via the mail app.
Microsoft explained late last month that it has made sharing via SkyDrive more "app-centric." For instance, a Word document can be shared on SkyDrive when the user is running Word, typically with minimal steps. Microsoft already enables document collaborations via some of its Office Web Apps, although its "coauthoring" feature used with the Word Web App doesn't exactly work in real time.
Other improvements made earlier this year to SkyDrive include simplifications to accessing folder directories and a speeded-up photo browsing experience, as well as the use of AJAX and HTML 5 technologies to improve the user experience. Microsoft has explained that some of the SkyDrive features it built earlier were just too complex, but it is listening to customer feedback and making improvements.
SkyDrive is a potential competitor in the mobile consumer space with Apple's iCloud, which is available for free with iOS 5. Microsoft's SkyDrive efforts appear to be part of its general market push into a world of connected devices that will increasingly be mobile. It also squares with the "three-screens and a cloud" vision laid out when Ray Ozzie was Microsoft's chief software architect. The idea is to synchronize data across devices. SkyDrive is already facilitating that, in part, by enabling single sign-on capabilities across devices.
The personal cloud storage competition is still at the early stage. In October, Microsoft measured SkyDrive use on the basis of file storage, file uploads and connected devices. The company reported 17 million stored files per month on SkyDrive. Uploaded and shared content hit 360 million files in October. Five million devices tapped SkyDrive in October, according to Microsoft.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.