RealTime IT News

SkyDrive Takes Flight

Microsoft officially made its play in online consumer storage Thursday, releasing its free Live SkyDrive service in 38 countries.

SkyDrive, which had been in beta since August, provides Web-based storage for consumers. As a result, users can access their files via a browser, just as they do with browser-based e-mail services like Gmail and Hotmail.

Storage is password-protected using Microsoft's LiveID service. However, the service also allows users to share chosen files with others without the need for a LiveID.

[cob:Related_Articles]"Having anywhere, anytime access to your files is useful today and will become even more important as Web services and client software become increasingly powerful and integrated," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

With the launch, Live SkyDrive becomes the latest component of Microsoft's "Live" suite of online services for consumers. It's also a key piece of the company's software-plus-services strategy for surviving in a world increasingly moving to Web-based applications that exist primarily "in the cloud."

Ultimately, the suite of free, downloadable services is expected to include Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live OneCare Family Safety and others, along with a unified installation program.

In addition to formally launching the SkyDrive service, Microsoft also upped each user's storage space to 5GB. That move marked the service's second increase in capacity, following an earlier expansion to 1GB in October, just before Microsoft relaunched its current slate of Live services.

Even before it its formal unveiling today, however, the service earlier suffered a brush with infamy.

While still in beta testing, Live SkyDrive briefly, and unknowingly, became a repository for spammers to host links to their electronic junk mail.

"Services like Windows Live SkyDrive are attractive to spammers for a number of reasons," said Chris Barton, McAfee Avert Labs' lead antispam researcher, in a statement earlier this year. "These services are free, provide unique, long-lasting Web links, host almost any kind of file and are relatively safe from blacklisting."

Microsoft ultimately kicked the spammers off its service.

Live SkyDrive's launch also means it's now in formal competition with a host of established rivals in online file storage for consumers, most of which are built around subscription-based models.

These range from the venerable Xdrive (now a unit of AOL) to more recent entrants like OmniDrive and EMC-owned Mozy. Microsoft archenemy Google also competes to an extent with Google Shared Storage, which offers users online space for use with the search giant's other services, like Gmail and Picasa.