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SkyDrive on Windows 8: Metro Style Desktop App, Windows Explorer Integration, Remote Fetching and More Features Detailed

Microsoft is hard at work to turn its online storage service Windows Live SkyDrive into a true cloud storage service with a new Windows 8 SkyDrive app and integration and some features leaks over the weekend, the Redmond company has revealed that Microsoft plans to make the SkyDrive app for Windows 8 available simultaneously with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which is due out by February 29.

In a Windows 8 blog post authored by Mike Torres and Omar Shahine, Group Program Managers for SkyDrive officially about an upcoming SkyDrive app for Windows, and provides some detail about the upcoming Windows 8 Metro style app for SkyDrive. However, there is no mention of the Mac client for the new SkyDrive service.

“Growing our infrastructure is one of many things we’ve been busy working on, but most important of these are our investments in sync and cloud scenarios for Windows 8, which will finally bring the DNA of SkyDrive and Mesh together into one service. Given our goal to be the world’s hard drive, we will need to continue to build out the service, and you can expect our pace of improvements to continue through 2012,” said Omar and Mike.

The February 20 blog post cover following three topics:

SkyDrive as a Metro style app on Windows 8:
“With the SkyDrive app, an early version of which will be available at Consumer Preview, we focused on two things: 1) designing a fast, fluid, touch-first version of SkyDrive that makes it quick, easy, and even fun to browse and access your files, and 2) making your SkyDrive available for use from any Metro style app via the file picker (open/save) and the new Share charm in Windows 8,” the authors posted.

Adding, “To build a SkyDrive experience on WinRT, we took an approach that we expect many web developers will choose to take on Windows 8. We built the entire app using modern web technologies like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5,” the authors posted.SkyDrive as a Metro style app for Windows 8

“One of the most powerful features in Windows 8 is the ability to integrate SkyDrive functionality across other apps using charms and contracts. SkyDrive is available as a file picker, so from any app you’ll be able to open files from, and save files to your SkyDrive. If the app developer chooses, you’ll even be able to save files automatically back to SkyDrive. Alternatively, if you’re using a content creation app like a document editor, you’ll be able to save files back to SkyDrive in any folder that you choose,” explained the autors.

“Together, this will bring a file cloud to every Metro style app, allowing you to open files in your SkyDrive and save them right back to your SkyDrive just like you would on your local hard drive. This will work with any app that supports open and save for documents and photos, and will be the first time anything like this has been possible without any setup or configuration. All you need to do is register your email address on a PC that’s running Windows 8 and then, whenever you save files on SkyDrive, every Windows 8 device you use will provide seamless access to those files.”

For app developers, this means that, so long as your app supports opening and saving documents and photos, it will automatically support SkyDrive without any additional work.

The authors notes, “SkyDrive will also be available via the Share charm, which allows you to send documents or photos through the Mail app on Windows 8. With one tap, you will be able to choose to share files through SkyDrive instead of sending them as attachments, which means you won’t have multiple copies of your files, each with their own set of changes. And of course, you won’t be limited to the small number of attachments and total file size of most email services since the files are stored in your SkyDrive.”

SkyDrive via Share charm

SkyDrive via Share charm: Mail app on Windows 8

SkyDrive files integrated into Windows Explorer on the desktop will offer benefits such as: easy drag-and-drop upload and download support for SkyDrive, anywhere access to your data, offline access, and the power of Windows Explorer to manage your files and folders.

“To start, we took what we learned from Mesh and FolderShare/Sync and built a very simple, highly efficient app with an installer of less than 5MB, that takes about 10 seconds to install. And, once installed, SkyDrive will always keep itself up-to-date, and will start syncing into the folder you choose (the default location is in a SkyDrive folder under your user folder: %userprofile%\SkyDrive\) and it will always be up-to-date with your latest changes,” explains Omar and Mike. “As you update files on your PC, they’re uploaded immediately to the cloud-and as changes are made in the cloud or on another device, they’ll sync back down to the PC.”

“Of course, there are people who will use older versions of Windows for a while, so SkyDrive on the desktop will also run on Windows Vista and Windows 7. If you want to make sure your files come with you to Windows 8 and you’re still running Windows 7, you’ll just put them in your SkyDrive folder. This makes it easier to upgrade to Windows 8 or make sure you can access your files across all of your PCs.”

“SkyDrive for the desktop will also provide the ability to sync up to your available quota of storage (and the ability to unlock more), along with unmatched performance on your PC. Oh, and we will also have support for uploading large files (up to 2GB) through Explorer, another big request from SkyDrive.com users over the years.”

SkyDrive on Windows 8 client on desktop

Ability to fetch remote files through SkyDrive.com:
The ability to do desktop sync and fetching remote files will come “soon afterwards” for Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, company officials said.

Omar and Mike notes, “With SkyDrive in Windows 8, you won’t just have cloud files synced to your PC. You can also turn your entire PC into your own private cloud, and use its terabytes of local storage to easily access, browse, and stream your files from anywhere by simply fetching them from SkyDrive.com.”

“we built a new feature that allows you to “reach across” the Internet to access any file, stream videos, or view photo albums from a remote PC that is running SkyDrive on the desktop. For any remote folder or file, you can also choose to “copy to SkyDrive,” so that you’ll always have it across your devices,” added Omar and Mike. “Internally we call this the “Forgot something?” feature. If you forget to put something on SkyDrive, you’ll still be able to access it on your remote PC through SkyDrive.com,” adding the duo said.

“We’ve done special work to enable remote streaming of video, and we’ll treat photo albums on your remote PC exactly as we do photo albums in SkyDrive, with the same beautiful full-screen viewer. We realize this is more of an enthusiast feature, as most people won’t have an always-on PC at home, but for those who do, fetching files works like magic.”

Here’s how remote PC will look in SkyDrive.com, and what it will be like to browse your Pictures folder remotely:

remote PC on SkyDrive.com

On the security front, the team added a layer of protection for your remote PCs.

“In order to access a remote PC, you will have to provide a second factor of authentication. This requires that you type a code that we send to your mobile phone or alternate email address in addition to having access to your account (if you’re already on a trusted PC, you won’t have to do this every time). This means that anyone wanting access to your remote PC would have to have access not only to your account, but also to either an alternate email or your phone (which they would need to physically possess),” Omar and Mike explains.

Here’s a preview of this:

SkyDrive in Windows 8: Two-factor authentication

SkyDrive in Windows 8 security verification

Watch the video demonstrating the features:

Here is a list of new SkyDrive features:

  • Desktop clients coming for Windows (officially confirmed) and Mac!
  • Additional paid storage (mentioned as “the ability to unlock more”) :
  • Free 25gb
  • “SkyDrive +20” – an additional 20gb for $10/yr
  • +50 for $25/yr and +100 for $50/yr also coming
  • New version will be SkyDrive Wave 5 M3
  • Bitlocker recovery key storage
  • OpenDocument formats (.odt, .odp, .ods) support
  • Access files on local computers via SkyDrive app (remote access confirmed)
  • URL shortening service
  • 300MB file upload size limit via SkyDrive.com
  • 17 million SkyDrive users (by comparison, Dropbox’s 45 million, last October)
  • SkyDrive stores 10 petabytes of user data, Hotmail stores 100PB
  • Windows 8 will “finally bring the DNA of SkyDrive and Mesh together into one service”
  • SkyDrive app for Windows 8
  • SkyDrive available to other Metro style apps and the file system through charms and contracts
  • Integrated into the Windows 8 Windows Explorer on the desktop
  • Full file and folder upload and sync – “no compromises”
  • Metro app built using JavaScript, CSS, HTML5, and the JSON APIs and JavaScript object model in SkyDrive.com
  • Metro app optimized for touch
  • Ability to save directly from Windows 8 to SkyDrive
  • SkyDrive Desktop app available for Windows 8, Windows 7, or Vista
  • Installer less than 5mb, takes 10 seconds to install (not sure if this applies to Win7 or Vista)
  • Support for uploading up to 2GB files through Explorer
  • Remote access will have a “copy to SkyDrive” feature
  • Remote streaming of video full screen photo viewer
  • 2nd factor authentication (mobile number or alt. email address) required for remote access
  • Changes coming “over the next several months”
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