Updated 2:35 pm ET, Wednesday, May 2
In the wake of the launch and subsequent user privacy furor over Google’s new cloud file storage service, Google Drive, competitor Microsoft has embarked on a new promotional blitz extolling the features of its own cloud-based storage system, SkyDrive, over Google’s solution.
“People want a cloud that seamlessly connects their files to the apps and devices they use every day,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement to TPM, “Over a billion people rely on Office apps and their Windows devices every day to create, capture and share from anywhere. SkyDrive is the only personal cloud storage service that works seamlessly with Office and Windows.”
Specifically, Microsoft points out that unlike Google Drive, launched April 24, and another popular competitor, the independently owned Dropbox, SkyDrive allows users to collaborate on and simultaneously edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents stored on the Web, even if those users are on a Mac or don’t have those programs installed on their machines.
In fact, unlike other competing services, Microsoft’s SkyDrive doesn’t require the file to be converted to open on other devices, storing the information entirely on its servers and making it accessible via Web browsers.
Microsoft even whipped up the following video ad the day Google Drive launched extolling precisely these attributes of SkyDrive:
Microsoft has attempted to highlight these and other SkyDrive features in the past week as Google has fought back criticism and concern that its terms of service for Google Drive (and nearly all other Google products) are too expansive, giving the company carte blanche when it comes to accessing and repurposing user data in advertisements, for example.
Microsoft claims its service is more protective of user privacy, pointing to its general terms of service, which read as follows: “Except for material that we license to you, we don’t claim ownership of the content you provide on the service. Your content remains your content. We also don’t control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service.”
“Beyond this, we have nothing to share at this time,” Microsoft’s spokesperson told TPM.
In fact, the day before Google Drive was unveiled to the world, Microsoft attempted to strike a pre-emptive blow, announcing that it was expanding SkyDrive to support remote viewing of a user’s entire Windows desktop and to support SkyDrive support directly through Apple’s iOSX Finder application.
Microsoft also said that SkyDrive would be an intergal part of its forthcoming Windows 8 operating system.
But the changes also came with a newly-imposed storage limit: 7 GB of free storage for new users of SkyDrive, down from 25GB previously. Older users can still retain their 25GB of free storage going forward, but new users will have to pay $2.49 a month for the same space and upwards for additional space, the exact same price point as Google Drive.
Whether any of these approaches ends up working out for Microsoft remains to be seen. Right now, Microsoft is playing catchup in the cloud-based storage game, with only 17 million monthly active users compared to Dropbox’s 50 million and Apple iCloud’s 125 million. Google did not release Google Drive numbers to TPM.
Late update: Microsoft on Wednesday afternoon announced that all copies of Windows 8 that ship later this year will include free SkyDrive accounts installed by default.
Further, new updates of the Windows Phone operating system will include SkyDrive and developers will be able to take advantage of a new SkyDrive API (application programming interface) to design apps that can store data in Microsoft’s cloud servers, as Steven Sinofsky, president of the company’s Windows division explained in a blog post.