OneDrive users rage against the Microsoft machine for backpedaling on unlimited storage

'I feel betrayed,' says one customer; others wonder why all were punished for the gluttony of a few

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Blair Hanley Frank

Users of Microsoft's OneDrive online storage service on Tuesday railed against the company's decision to ditch its unlimited allowance, calling it a betrayal and asking why all are being penalized for the excesses of a few.

"Why punish everyday subscribers for those that are abusing your system with possibly illegal content?" asked someone identified only as John in the comment that kicked off more than 600 messages appended to Microsoft's blogged announcement of the changes to OneDrive.

"I do video renderings for work. I take max 3TB online. This is extremely bad for me," added Jarno Burger about the new maximum allotment of 1TB.

Late Monday, Microsoft made sweeping changes to OneDrive, citing abuse of its former unlimited storage deal for consumers.

"A small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings," Microsoft said on a company blog. "In some instances, this exceeded 75TB per user or 14,000 times the average."

"Microsoft really back-tracked on this one with consumers," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, in an interview done via instant messaging. "This is counter to what Microsoft and its brand stands for, which is commitment."

Previously, subscribers to Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal had been allowed unlimited space. Office 365 Home, which costs $10 monthly or $100 annually, offered unlimited storage to up to five users; Office 365 Personal, at $7 monthly or $70 yearly, provided unlimited OneDrive for one user. Those accounts have been rolled back to 1TB, effective immediately for new subscribers. Current subscribers will have 12 months to drop their usage under 1TB.

Microsoft instituted unlimited storage for consumer Office 365 subscribers just over a year ago. "Today, storage limits just became a thing of the past with Office 365," boasted Chris Jones, the executive who headed the OneDrive team at that time.

Apparently the past Jones spoke of returned Monday. And customers weren't happy.

"I've been using OneDrive since the first days and I feel betrayed," said Diego B today in the blog's comments.

Others wondered when the other shoe would drop.

"So what's next? You'll tell me that I can't install Office 365 on 5 computers, only 3? Then only 1?" asked Joshua. "Because you've decided the revenue model isn't working out? Your trust is now blown and I live and breathe Microsoft day in and day out for a career, and because I believed in the company and its vision. No more. This is the biggest blunder of PR and customer service I've seen since ... oh wait, it wasn't that long ago."

When Microsoft announced last year it was upping consumers' Office 365 OneDrive accounts to unlimited, it also promised to extend unlimited storage to employees of companies that subscribed to a corporate Office 365 plan. But it never pulled that trigger on OneDrive for Business.

It may never, although the picture for business remained muddied Tuesday. Microsoft's blog post said nothing specific about OneDrive for Business, but its service description, last updated Oct. 5, continued to list 1TB as the maximum. On the other hand, the Office 365 roadmap still showed "Unlimited storage for OneDrive for Business" in the "In development" category.

The company declined to say whether prior plans to boost storage to unlimited for OneDrive for Business accounts were DOA.

"I certainly hope not," said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, when asked whether he thought Redmond would also cap OneDrive for Business. When asked why, he said, "I have just four words: 'PowerPoint with embedded videos.'"

Along with the elimination of unlimited storage, Microsoft also reduced the free allowance from 15GB to 5GB -- matching Apple's iCloud, but just a third of Google's online storage service; scratched the additional 15GB it had provided exclusively for photographs; and dropped two paid plans that had offered 100GB for $2 per month and 200GB for $4 a month.

To replace those plans -- and presumably accommodate customers who want to stick around who need more than the puny 5GB -- Microsoft early next year will add a 50GB deal that costs $2 per month.

That's twice the price of Apple's 50GB iCloud plan, something OneDrive users quickly figured out. "Great job in alienating OneDrive loyalists," said C. Reese. "I've purchased my 50GB of iCloud storage and have already begun transferring files. You just lost a customer."

Microsoft accepted that possibility when it decided on this move, said Miller. "Microsoft's saying, 'The people who are most important to us [as customers] are those with this range of storage needs,'" Miller said. "Companies are constantly evolving how their products are priced and packaged, and trying to balance encouraging adoption against unreasonable costs."

Last year, when Microsoft announced OneDrive, Miller called it a promotional ploy. "Unlimited is all about marketing," he said then. He stuck to that today.

Part of the reason for shutting down the all-you-can-eat storage buffet may have been due to that "promotion" running its course, Miller argued today. "It's a little of both," he said, referring to a combination of higher-than-expected costs and the marketing-esque push to get consumers to subscribe to Office 365 by offering unlimited storage. "Maybe they got out of it what they could. And maybe this change is all about the holidays, when people will buy new devices [with Office 365 included], and aligning expectations."

More information about the changes to OneDrive can be found in an FAQ Microsoft has published, which goes into detail about how it will handle not only customers who currently exceed the 1TB allotment, but who signed up for the defunct 100GB and 200GB plans.

OneDrive changes

Along with ditching unlimited storage, Microsoft yesterday also eliminated its 100GB and 200GB plans, and created a new one for 50GB. The latter, however, costs twice as much as Apple's identical iCloud deal. Prices shown here are per gigabyte per month. Some have been rounded to the nearest cent. The best deals are highlighted in bold.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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