In keeping with the emphasis on Windows 8’s ability to restore itself to its default state at a moment’s notice, should the situation demand, they have spent a fair amount of time playing up the importance of the SkyDrive program. Taking a page out of Dropbox’s book, SkyDrive’s current implementation allows users to store up to 7GB of data for free with minimal intrusion or effort required. This allows users to have access to their most important data regardless of time, place, or technical difficulties. Even if you have to completely wipe your hard drive or buy a new computer entirely, everything in your SkyDrive folder will be there.
With recent updates, developers have been assured that so long as their Metro apps are capable of opening and saving documents they will be fully compatible with SkyDrive. The same will be true through the Windows 8 Desktop, along with Vista and Windows 7, thanks to the downloadable app available through Microsoft’s site. Since we are basically talking about a synced folder this is hardly surprising, but it is important to have the confirmation given both previous SkyDrive practices and the way Google Docs works.
The Google Docs comparison is especially important for two reasons. One, SkyDrive’s ability to allow users to edit their MS Office documents online and in collaboration with other people puts it directly in competition with Google Docs. Two, Google has finally released Google Drive, their long-awaited cloud storage solution.
While there is currently some controversy regarding the TOS for Google Drive, it is safe to say that this will be clarified in the near future. Most of the issues under attack are simply rights that any such service would need to have in order to make documents accessible and sharable through cloud storage. Disregarding that situation, it is actually a rather interesting offering.
Here is a breakdown of the most important features:
|Microsoft SkyDrive||Google Drive|
|Compatibility||Windows, Mac, iOS, Windows Phone||Windows, Mac, Android|
|Largest File Supported||2GB||5GB|
|Annual Paid Storage||$10/20GB; $50/100GB||$30/25GB; $60/100GB|
In most of the ways that matter, the two services are roughly equivalent.
Having spent some time testing, SkyDrive is definitely the more pleasant service to use in most ways. It is quick, unobtrusive, and generally painless once your account is set up. Even that part is not particularly problematic. Google does have a few things going for them, however.
Google Drive is available on Android, which some people will find a big plus. With Android devices holding more than half the smartphone market for the first time, this will matter. Google also has an unsurprising edge when it comes to search capabilities. Currently the ability to search documents in SkyDrive is limited to MS Office file formats.
This said, it is doubtful that many people using Windows 8 for the first time will mind the idea of having their files already accessible any time they log into a Windows 8 machine using their Live account. The simplicity and integration will be a huge incentive. It is also so tightly tied to the Windows RT experience that Microsoft knows they cannot afford to have anything go wrong, which can’t help but keep things running more smoothly.
If choosing right this minute, you’re best off just using something compatible with your favorite mobile device. They’re not different enough to matter in huge ways. It is somewhat hilarious that one of the primary selling points for a Microsoft product is its iOS compatibility, but until Windows 8 brings that integration to the user base at large that’s the most obvious advantage.