We have to wonder if the only reason SkyDrive and Mesh (and Live Sync for that matter) haven’t already combined is because Microsoft still feels that the multi-device synchronization concept is too advanced for many mainstream users. If so, we would disagree. These two services belong together, and we don’t think Microsoft is doing itself any favors in taking share from Google by keeping them separate. ‘Nuff said.
If you’ve played with Microsoft’s free Live services at all, you know that this is Redmond’s reply to Google’s many consumer cloud services, including Calendar, Spaces, Photos, Mail, and more. SkyDrive is the general storage area that can be used either as just a holding zone for data or to feed data to other services, such as Photos. SkyDrive opens with several default folders, including “Public.” Anything you place in Public can be viewed by anyone whether you’ve invited them or not. They don’t even need a Windows Live ID, and they can subscribe to an RSS feed updating them on any Public folder changes. You’ll also find “Favorites” and “Home page photos.”
SkyDrive defaults to using a browse-and-pick uploader, letting you transfer five files of up to 50MB each at a time. However, if you’re using Internet Explorer and pick Add Files, you’ll see a drag-and-drop tool. (This didn’t work in Chrome for us.) You’re actually dropping into a holding area. Unfortunately, when we tested this, the drag-and-drop process would only work once per load. When we dropped three files into the area, that worked fine. Trying to drop any more files in wouldn’t work until we’d done an upload and started over.
Unlike Mesh, SkyDrive seems to be gathering features at a more reasonable pace. For example, the new Office Web Apps (browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) save files into SkyDrive. When you need to download, you can use the More pull-down menu to download entire folders as a ZIP file. Careful to keep Bing in the loop, when you use the Save & Share feature of Bing, your search history dumps into its own SkyDrive folder.
Again, SkyDrive is a thumb drive in the sky, not a backup service. The 50MB file limit is crippling when it comes to video. While you can share folder links with others and view slideshows from within SkyDrive, this service lacks the comfortable maturity of Google’s collaboration capabilities. Microsoft is obviously trying to catch up in its own way, but that also means at its own pace—one of the company’s weaker “features.”
Note: If you’re curious about the “Service Unavailable” text in our screen capture above, it doesn’t mean that SkyDrive was down. In fact, that’s where banner ads normally go, so it was the ad system that was temporarily offline. Now, why can’t we see Microsoft errors like that more often?