Microsoft today announced a new version of SkyDrive, the company’s cloud storage service. With support for the Office Web Apps, SkyDrive hooks into the Microsoft Office ecosystem as well as the world of Windows Phone and regular Windows desktops. The new version of SkyDrive is written to take advantage of HTML5 and is, according to Microsoft, significantly faster and easier to use. Microsoft also dropped the ad banner that used to haunt the right sidebar and now uses this space to provide easier access to additional features.
Current Windows Live users will also notice that Microsoft has now consolidated both the Windows Live Photos and Office services into SkyDrive.
Made for the Modern Web
Microsoft freely admits that the earlier versions of SkyDrive, which made its debut in 2007, simply weren’t developed for the modern Web. Thanks to making use of HTML5 and other modern web technologies like CSS3 and hardware acceleration, the new version is significantly faster (especially when viewing images).
While Microsoft doesn’t provide any professional document management functions like checking documents in and out with SkyDrive, its focus is on providing users in the Windows ecosystem with an easy to use web-based storage solution for documents and photos. It also brings together all of your documents from other Windows Live services and displays them in a traditional Windows Explorer-like interface that now closely resembles the file manager in Windows 7. This means you now get shortcuts for easy access to your documents and files in the left sidebar, for example.
Here is a short video that explains these changes in a bit more detail:
Still Missing: Full Integration with Live Mesh
One thing that’s still missing, though, is a more elegant integration with Live Mesh, the company’s syncing service for Windows and OS X). While you can access your synced documents from a link in SkyDrive, this integration is still a bit clunky and doesn’t feel natural. Microsoft promises to bring the two services closer together in the near future, though.