Windows Live, intended to be a landing page for social activity and Microsoft's cloud-connected apps, is rolling out a host of redesigns and upgrades today, but none so exciting (to our eyes, anyways) as the anticipated jump of the SkyDrive online storage service to 25GB capacity. As the Digital Inspiration blog points out, SkyDrive seems to be a central part of the Redmond giant's web ambitions, so it's not likely to go away or shrink. Aside from the raw upload/download capabilities, having a SkyDrive account gives you a few other cool abilities, which we'll detail below.
No-sign-up-needed sharing: If you've used most any Microsoft service, you know their features are often linked to a drive to get more people signed into their apps and networks. Not so with SkyDrive, which offers a nice little checkbox for sending sharing links to any email address without requiring a Live sign-in.
Lots of tools for photos: Tag yourself or friends Facebook-style in your photos, launch elegant pic-on-black-background slideshows from folders of pictures (your own or shared) that works on any browser (but supposedly better with Silverlight installed), order prints, and SkyDrive's thumbnails are nicely big and clear. Here's how photos are handled in SkyDrive's file browser:
Grab entire folders as single .zip files: This simple, helpful compression feature isn't entirely common amongst file-sharing/storage services. You can also drop photos right into your Live Photo Gallery, if that's how your roll.
Easy sharing and updates on contacts' files: Windows Live allows you to keep updated with what your friends on Live, Facebook, and LinkedIn are up to, and SkyDrive is no different. Your main SkyDrive page will let you know if any of your contacts have opened up a file for public sharing, and you can organize contacts into categories for easy group sharing—so everyone, for example, in "Project Team" can be sent your latest report at once, with one click.
Mount SkyDrive on your desktop with Gladinet: As we detailed earlier this week, Gladinet's free Cloud Desktop beta allows you mount and access SkyDrive (and Picasa, Google Docs, and Amazon's S3) as if it were a plain network folder. Drag-and-drop access to 25GB of go-anywhere cloud space is surely a nifty thing.
Still lacking—50MB file size limit: Amongst SkyDrive's online storage peers, 50MB isn't quite eye-opening, especially for a service that wants to be the hub of a burgeoning online network. Still, for photos, documents, and even most zipped-up MP3 albums, it's decent enough.
SkyDrive requires a sign-up with Windows Live for storing and sharing files. What do you think of the newly-expanded SkyDrive? Share your review in the comments.
Special Thanks to Kevin Purdy