Today Microsoft gave everyone a little peek into how SkyDrive will be integrated into Windows 8, which includes a Metro-style app that will allow the quick and easy access to your files on SkyDrive through the app, and also through any other app that contains the ability to open and save files with the file picker in Windows 8.
Not only will there be a Metro-style app available with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview (which is expected to be released in a week or so), but there will also be a replacement for the current Windows Live Mesh application for the desktop. This new application will be “very simple” and “highly efficient, according to the blog post, as the installer will be less than 5MB and install under 10 seconds. But more on that later.
As of today, SkyDrive (there is no mention of “Windows Live” in this blog post) has over 17 million active users, storing more than 10PB of data. Microsoft is expecting to have that figure grow beyond some of the largest services that provide similar features, which is a pretty big undertaking. However Mike Torres and Omar Shahine, group program managers for SkyDrive, point out that Microsoft has a lot of experience with handling such large amounts of data as Hotmail stores over 100PB of data. It now appears that it is Microsoft’s goal “to be the world’s hard drive.”
SkyDrive goes Metro
As stated, any other Metro-style app that take advantage of the charms and contracts within the WinRT API, SkyDrive will be available as a file picker. This means users will be able to open and save files to their SkyDrive with virtually any app, and the app will not have to explicitly support such functionality.
So Long, Windows Live Mesh!
Currently in order to sync files from your desktop to your SkyDrive the computer must be running Windows Live Mesh, which is provided by Windows Live Essentials. While users must still install an application to access SkyDrive on their desktop, it will be a much simpler process, and it will be much more powerful.
When this application is installed, the user will be allowed to choose which folder will be the SkyDrive folder (which will default to %UserProfile%\SkyDrive\), and the folder from there on out will be synced to SkyDrive, and any updates will be automatically synced to the computer.
This may not sound much different, but the current syncing application is completely separate from Windows Explorer, and there are no indications that the folder is out-of-date or that it is even being synced, but this new application will be integrated into Windows Explorer. Windows Explorer will show overlay icons on the files and folders within the synced SkyDrive folder and show when items are up-to-date or being synced.
Finally, many users of Windows Live Mesh complain that they do not get access to the full 25GB of space provided by the SkyDrive service, and also the lack of uploading huge files. This will also change, as the entire 25GB of space will be available when syncing files, and files of up to 2GB may be synced.
Did I mention that this application will be available not only on Windows 8, but also Windows 7 and Vista? Sorry XP users, you’re out of luck!
Soon users of SkyDrive will be able to access any file on their computer through SkyDrive.com — even if the files are not synced from the computer. The users will be able to browse their files remotely, even download them, or stream videos and browse photo albums. There will also be the ability to copy an item to the SkyDrive synced folder, allowing you to have complete access to items the user may have forgotten to sync.
As Mike and Omar point out, this can be dangerous, after all, the user is then allowing anyone with their account password complete access to the files on their computer (though I would argue one should have a password no one else knows, and a good password at that), but don’t worry — they thought of that too. If the computer you are using to access the remote files is not already a Trusted PC, then the user must enter a security code they receive on their mobile phone or an alternate email address.
More to Come
The blog post finishes off by saying that Microsoft will continue to increase the number of platforms that SkyDrive is available on, including Windows Phone “and others.” These features will become available “over the next several months,” so users will just have to sit tight.
In this post they also hinted at the ability to increase the amount of storage space available, and if the rumors from The Verge are correct, Microsoft will allow the purchasing of 20, 50 and 100GB of extra space for $10, $25 or $50 a year, respectively. These amounts will also include the 25GB of free space already provided. If these prices are correct, then Dropbox will have some serious competition, as their offer for 100GB of space comes in at $19.99 a month, or roughly $240 a year.