Microsoft pulls the plug on OneDrive unlimited storage

Going back on earlier promises, Microsoft will now offer only 1TB of OneDrive storage with Office 365 subscriptions

Last night Microsoft's OneDrive team posted on the OneDrive blog that the unlimited storage space offered to Office 365 subscribers is henceforth off the table. Those of you who subscribed to Office 365 thinking you'd have unlimited OneDrive space forever can go pound sand. Microsoft won't give it to you.

No, I don't know how the company can get away with that, either.

Here's what Microsoft said on the OneDrive blog a year ago:

Today, storage limits just became a thing of the past with Office 365. Moving forward, all Office 365 customers will get unlimited OneDrive storage at no additional cost. We've started rolling this out today to Office 365 Home, Personal, and University customers. The roll out will continue over the coming months… For OneDrive for Business customers, unlimited storage will be listed on the Office 365 roadmap in the coming days and we will begin updating the First Release customers in 2015, aligned with our promise to provide ample notification for significant service changes. In the meantime, get started using your 1TB of storage today by backing up all those work files kicking around on your PC -- with the knowledge that even more storage is on its way!

Last night, the tone on the OneDrive forum changed a bit:

We're no longer planning to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Starting now, those subscriptions will include 1TB of OneDrive storage… If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and have stored in excess of 1TB, you will be notified of this change and will be able to keep your increased storage for at least 12 months.

We haven't yet heard about OneDrive for Business storage limitations.

Notably, the original missive was signed by then OneDrive honcho Chris Jones; yesterday's post is anonymous. Jones abruptly left the OneDrive team in May, reportedly to go on vacation and return to a different part of Qi Lu's ASG organization. He hasn't tweeted anything since April, and I can't find any recent information about his activities inside Microsoft.

Microsoft says its new "OneDrive storage plans change in pursuit of productivity and collaboration" -- one of the most egregious examples of corporate doublespeak I've ever seen. It blames the changes on "a small number of users [who] backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75TB per user or 14,000 times the average."

While my hat's off to anyone who could keep OneDrive up long enough to store 75TB, it seems a bit duplicitous to advertise an unlimited service, then cut everyone off at the knees because of the excesses of a few.

There's an interesting, if slightly askew, analogy. Over the past few years, AT&T has offered "unlimited data" to many of its customers. It suddenly started throttling back certain unlimited accounts. In June the FCC fined AT&T $100 million for its deceptive practice. As Jon Brodkin reports in Ars Technica, the situation still hasn't been settled.

Microsoft's unlimited storage plan isn't the only one that got hit hard. The blog post goes on to say:

100GB and 200GB paid plans are going away as an option for new users and will be replaced with a 50GB plan for $1.99 per month in early 2016.

Free OneDrive storage will decrease from 15GB to 5GB for all users, current and new. The 15GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued. These changes will start rolling out in early 2016… If you are using more than 5GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1TB of OneDrive storage.

In other words, Microsoft unilaterally changed nearly all of its OneDrive storage contracts.

There's a FAQ available. Read it and weep -- or rage.

I continue to wonder why there's no Fair Use clause in the OneDrive agreement. Fair Use restrictions with a simple (and well disclosed) maximum -- say, 10TB or 25TB -- would've capped people like the 75TB freeloader without hurting the rest of us. Instead, Microsoft uses the outlying data point as an excuse to cut back on a wide array of promises.

Welcome to the new litany:

"We sold you unlimited storage, but our fingers were crossed."

"We sold you Windows 7, but golly you're going to like this Windows 10 advertising on your system."

"We sold you Windows 8.1, but started that Windows 10 installer by mistake."

"We need to increase Windows 7 telemetry to make your system more reliable."

"We stuck 6GB of unwanted data on your computer because it's what you're going to want."

Somebody tell me, what's next?

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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