Windows Live SkyDrive offers some awesome features but also aggravating complexity and annoying limits. It has evolved over time, the most recent update in June 2011 was a decidedly mixed bag (The new SkyDrive – Bouquets and Brickbats). The claim to fame was “HTML5” and “faster”, but there were some unfortunate changes, the poster-child being dropping of the self-running slide show feature. That hurt, but what made it seem like they rubbed salt into the wounds was the self-running slide shows on the tiles representing the albums.
Geoff Coupe in his post The Pitfalls of Design sums up the major shortcomings. Another feature that was removed: SkyDrive no longer shows the tags that were assigned to photos before uploading. It even asks to “Add a tag”. Yet the tags are there. When you map a SkyDrive album in Windows Explorer, all the assigned metadata is shown just the same as for images on the local drive. (How can I see my SkyDrive photos in Windows Explorer?) Of course, the mapped SkyDrive album no longer functions as you would expect, it is worthless for organizing or uploading photos. The illustration here shows one of three mapped albums. They appear as drives or folders, you can step to subfolders and view the images and see the documents, but any useful functionality is absent.
With the stories about Windows 8 there have been some tantalizing comments of full-integration of SkyDrive. Omar Shahine, Group Program Manager, SkyDrive, in a recent post, SkyDrive – designing personal cloud storage for billions of people, presents a candid report on SkyDrive and the challenges of “cloud services”. LiveSide takes a skeptical view of this, SkyDrive blog post: setting the stage for a new version, or admitting failure?, however it is a very promising article. Even more promising are the commitments made in comments to Geoff’s post and elsewhere. There is every reason to expect that with Windows 8 SkyDrive will become the premier cloud service for the average user as well as the more technically demanding geeks.
So what can we expect?
Windows Live Mesh works like a charm on the connected devices – just a folder like any other, except that the folders on the devices are synchronized across the Internet – they do not need to be on at the same time. The files show up in SkyDrive but unfortunately they cannot be used like other files in SkyDrive. From the many comments about this, that will be, no doubt, be corrected.
The details already mentioned above in Geoff’s blog will be corrected – see the comment on that post by Omar.
Another way that SkyDrive has already been moved closer to the desktop is “pinning”. Internet Explorer offers “pinning” of many websites. This works very nicely already for SkyDrive as well as Hotmail or the online Live site.
The technology and the potential has been there to make SkyDrive the premier cloud service, but maybe not the full understanding and appreciation of the public’s needs. But that has changed: Omar tweeted “Working on getting to 1st place” in response to a lifehacker post that shows SkyDrive running a distant third behind Dropbox (Most Popular Online File Storage and Syncing Service: Dropbox).
Also see LiveSide presents Questions and Requests, first off is SkyDrive – Get your requests passed on to Microsoft.
With Windows 8 just a couple of months away (beta release is widely expected in January 2012), can the new SkyDrive be far behind?
© 2011 Ludwig Keck