Microsoft kills SkyDrive, launches OneDrive

Offers try-me incentives, including 100GB for a year to the first 100K customers who access renamed storage service

Three weeks after announcing OneDrive as the new label for SkyDrive, Microsoft today activated the renamed storage service, and offered some new incentives that give customers more space.

Current users need do nothing, said Microsoft; their data has been moved for them.

Microsoft announced the new name on Jan. 27, six months after striking a deal with British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSkyB), the massive television and broadband Internet service provider owned in part by Rupert Murdoch. BSkyB had taken the American firm to trademark court over SkyDrive's moniker.

Today, Microsoft tried making lemonade out of the lemon that was the SkyDrive-naming imbroglio. "When we announced the new name OneDrive, we noted how it is much more aligned with our vision for the future," contended Chris Jones, the executive who leads the Windows Services group, on a Wednesday blog. "Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to get all of your favorite stuff in one place -- one place that is accessible via all of the devices you use every day, at home and at work."

Jones' language echoed the company's new "One Microsoft" strategy and corporate reorganization, and its drumbeat that its services are unique because they serve a family of devices "at home, at work and on the go," as former CEO Steve Ballmer explained last year.

OneDrive retains the 7GB of free storage space of SkyDrive, but Microsoft also kicked off incentives today, including another free 3GB for trying out the new photo back-up feature and up to 5GB for referring friends and family to the service (up to 10, in 500MB increments).

The first 100,000 customers who access their OneDrive account will receive an additional 100GB of free space for a year.

In comparison, Apple provides only 5GB of free storage space for its iCloud online syncing and storage service, Google offers 15GB free with Google Drive, and the popular Dropbox file synchronization service hands just 2GB to customers free of charge.

Microsoft also added monthly payment options -- for example, a steep $4.49 per month for an additional 50GB, compared to $25 annually -- for extra storage space.

The Redmond, Wash. company launched renamed apps for Apple's iOS, Google's Android and Microsoft's own Windows Phone today. As of early Wednesday, it had not replaced SkyDrive for OS X -- available from Apple's Mac App Store -- with a renamed OneDrive application.

It has also renamed SkyDrive Pro, the corporate-grade online storage service tied to Office 365, as OneDrive for Business. Microsoft said it would reveal more about OneDrive for Business at the SharePoint Conference slated to run March 3-6 in Las Vegas.

Microsoft's newest Office, whether the perpetually-licensed, stand-alone versions called Office 2013, or those installed locally as part of an Office 365 subscription, defaults to the cloud service for saving files. The name in those applications has not yet been changed, however; Microsoft observer Mary Jo Foley today said that those changes will take place the next time Redmond does a major update.

OneDrive monthly rates
OneDrive's new monthly payment option is pricey: 50GB costs $53.88 for a year by paying monthly, while the annual fee is just $25.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com..

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