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Microsoft OneDrive: Cloud Storage Freebies

Microsoft officially rebrands SkyDrive as OneDrive, adding new features and launching promotions in the process.

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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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
2/27/2014 | 8:40:05 PM
Re: sensitive info requested by microsoft before you can create OneDrive account.
Hey – Microsoft has to pay for all that "free" OneDrive storage someway!  Collecting, using, selling peoples information, sifting through all they upload and then placing ads in all related products and services is the method du jour.  While I agree a few gigs aren't worth it, there are millions of consumers who can't resist something that's free.  Wasn't it  P. T. Barnum who said "There's a sucker born every minute"?
User Rank: Apprentice
2/26/2014 | 9:35:25 PM
One Big Drive registered before One Drive for cloud computing
One Big Drive is a consolidated cloud storage company who started their site and services 3-4 weeks prior to Microsofts One Drive and has many of the same features. This is probably the biggest issue for Microsoft and their name choice. will probably start litigation or sue Microsoft at some point if Microsoft doesn't buy them out first. They are a publicly traded company at PTPF so this may get interesting.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/26/2014 | 8:14:50 AM
Re: sensitive info requested by microsoft before you can create OneDrive account.
Exactly! You might get a few GB of free cloud space, but Microsoft gets your details, your data, and literaly anything you put in there. That's why I back up my important stuff with my own 1TB NAS - over several years it's much cheaper than whatever OneDrive could offer me.

And if I need to share something with someone, I'd rather use web services like Filemail – they allow you to send any number of files up to 30GB each for free, no registration needed. Your data doesn't stay anywhere on their server, and you don't have to sign any 200-page long terms and conditions in order to use it. 

Oh, and they're not US based. Considering everything that's been recently said about NSA, I'd suggest you all do the same.
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 1:00:55 PM
Expanding the footprint
As a user of other cloud storage services, I like the idea of leveraging a unified ecosystem like Microsoft is putting forth.  Firstly, if they are able to seamlessly allow for a single customer interface in terms of how their data is stored, accessed and used, it almost renders the underlying platform obsolete.  With Office 365, and OneDrive, you can theoretically work across any device on any platform, a huge advantage for mobile workers who want the flexibility of working from multiple locations without being tied to a single device.  I can see employers loving this with the addition of Lync, all of a sudden you can leverage it for both BYOD and mobility strategy, but it could act as the cornerstone of a remote workforce strategy.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/19/2014 | 8:12:52 PM
A DropBox competitor?
Like the other cloud file storage services, OneDrive is bait for consumers, sticky once they show up and a potentially expandable service beyond simple storage. Think data backup and recovery.
Rational Human
Rational Human,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/19/2014 | 3:30:53 PM
sensitive info requested by microsoft before you can create OneDrive account.
what is the first thing about security?  don't give sensitive info:  birth date, zip code, the list is long.

spent too many years lecturing to users about security of sensitive info.

why is microsoft gathering birthdates when you sign up for OneDrive?  Not to tell the underage signees, as they can just lie and input a year that puts them in the adult category.

a few gigs can't be worth this.
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