February 19, 2014
Microsoft on Wednesday officially rebranded its SkyDrive cloud storage platform as OneDrive. To mark the transition, the company also introduced a new feature that allows videos to be shared like photos, as well as automatic photo backup for the Android version of the service. Microsoft also announced a variety of new promotions that allow users to acquire additional storage space.
Microsoft agreed to abandon the SkyDrive name in July, after a British court ruled that it violated a trademark owned by the British Sky Broadcasting Group. Microsoft revealed the OneDrive branding in January, setting the stage for Wednesday's official crossover.
As a product that caters to both businesses and consumers, OneDrive is not only a cloud storage play, but also a meaningful part of the company's "One Microsoft" strategy. It competes with formidable cloud storage services including Google Drive, iCloud, and Dropbox. Despite the tough field, Microsoft's offering has become popular, with upward of 250 million users. Thanks to the new features and a fresh wave of publicity, OneDrive might be poised for more growth.
[Has Windows 8.1 won over Windows 8 critics? Read Microsoft Sells 200M Win 8 Licenses: Yawn.]
The aforementioned promotions certainly can't hurt Microsoft's cause. The company offers a relatively generous 7 GB of storage for free, but if you use OneDrive's photo backup feature on a mobile phone, Microsoft will give you 3 GB of additional capacity. The company also upped its incentives for OneDrive users who refer friends; you can now get 500 MB for each user you attract to the service, up to a maximum of 5 GB.
Microsoft is giving 100 GB of free storage for a year to the first 100,000 users to access their accounts following the name change. The company also continues to offer 200 GB of OneDrive storage for two years with the purchase of Surface tablets.
Microsoft said the switch shouldn't impact current OneDrive and OneDrive for Business users. Previously stored files will remain in Microsoft's cloud, like before -- but now users have the added benefit of built-in video transcoding. The new feature not only allows videos to be stored in the cloud, but also dynamically adjusts their resolution to fit the viewer's screen when a video is shared. If you store a high-definition video and share it with someone using a sub-HD screen, in other words, OneDrive won't waste bandwidth with the original file's superfluous pixels.
In a blog post, Chris Jones, corporate VP of Windows Services, wrote, "If you happen to carry an iPhone or Android phone, or use an iPad, Android tablet, Windows device, or a Mac-- OneDrive is available there, too." This emphasis on cross-platform service echoes comments Lync & Skype engineering VP Gurdeep Singh Pall made Tuesday at Microsoft's Lync Conference 2014. He dismissed Microsoft's reputation for proprietary tactics, noting that 130 million iOS and Android customers use Skype, and said Lync users will soon be able to have IP-enabled conversations with virtually anyone, Microsoft customers and non-customers alike.
If unleashed too aggressively, Microsoft's ambition to insert its software and services on competing platforms could limit demand for Windows 8 devices, particularly tablets. The company has appeared acutely aware of this balancing act; as accessible as OneDrive and Lync have become, Office -- arguably the crown jewel in the company's software portfolio -- hasn't yet been released for iPads and Android tablets. One of new CEO Satya Nadella's most immediate challenges will be directing when and how additional cross-platform expansions occur.
Microsoft has partially responded to cross-platform delicacies by attempting to make OneDrive an integrated part of Windows. Apple's customers can use Microsoft's cloud -- but only Windows bakes OneDrive directly into the file structure, making cloud-stored files as accessible and visible as the locally stored data with which we're all familiar.
And even if Microsoft knows it must embrace the popularity of competing operating systems, the company still couldn't resist taking a light jab at Apple's iPad. In a video released to highlight OneDrive's capabilities, a young child drops what looks like an iPad into a fish tank. His mother looks momentarily dismayed, but seconds later, the two of them are on the couch, exploring OneDrive on a shiny new Windows tablet.
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