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8/17/2007
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Microsoft Needs Integrated Online Storage

This week, Microsoft announced some updates to Windows Live Hotmail, including 5 Gbytes of free storage. Meanwhile, Windows Live SkyDrive has a relatively measly 500 Mbytes of storage. Why isn't Microsoft's online storage integrated?

This week, Microsoft announced some updates to Windows Live Hotmail, including 5 Gbytes of free storage. Meanwhile, Windows Live SkyDrive has a relatively measly 500 Mbytes of storage. Why isn't Microsoft's online storage integrated?If Microsoft is really trying to create something OS-like for the Internet, why not start with the data stores? Don't get me wrong, the Live team is adding some nice features, like drag and drop and photo previews to SkyDrive. It just seems to me that Microsoft should be moving toward an integrated store, rather than having 5 Gbytes here for mail, 500 Mbytes here for most other things, and 3 Mbytes there for MSN Groups, along with however much storage you can get for free to host a Web site. Windows Live already is complicated and seems disparate enough. I should be able to map everything to one Live:\ drive, even if e-mails open up in Hotmail and photos in Live Photo Gallery upon clicking on my online items.

To me, the sensible thing to do would be to make Live SkyDrive much bigger, and to allow Microsoft's other online storage locations to plug into it like a hub. So why does Windows Live SkyDrive only have 500 Mbytes of storage today? A year ago, Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie told Fortune that Microsoft was going to offer people "huge amounts" of online storage. Later in 2006, a Microsoft technical specialist told bloggers the service now known as Live SkyDrive would include 2 Gbytes free storage, with more for purchase. Even that, less than what's in Hotmail, has yet to be realized.

Microsoft is building a utility computing fabric for developers and the masses alike, which Ozzie said last month at Microsoft's annual financial analyst conference would support "several types of horizontally scalable storage types like files and database and searchable storage that are needed for different types of apps that you put onto this platform." In the client-server world, I assuredly use different apps to access different types of information, but I don't have to go into several different types of applications just to see what's in my file stores. I just go to Explorer, or on Vista, even better, I just type in the name of the file in the search bar and hit Enter. That's how easy it should be.

In the Fortune interview last year, Ozzie laid out Microsoft's online storage vision in terms wider than what Microsoft has since then come to offer. "All your information -- movies, music, tax information, a high-definition videoconference you had with your grandmother, whatever -- could be accessible from anywhere, on any device." Make it easier, and maybe they will come.

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