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Monday, February 20, 2012, 04:06 pm PT (07:06 pm ET)

Microsoft to challenge iCloud with SkyDrive OS X client

Microsoft is readying a significant update to SkyDrive in Windows 8, and reportedly leaked screenshots of the revamped file syncing and cloud storage service show that a Mac OS X client could be poised to compete with Apple's iCloud.

The purported SkyDrive images were posted on Saturday by Brazilian blog Gemind, and show demo downloads (machine translation) for Windows or Mac apps that will allow for automatic syncing, storage and remote access to files from the cloud.

Also of note are paid storage options that can be purchased in 20GB, 50GB or 100GB flavors for approximately $10, $25 or $50 per year, respectively.

The extra space will supplement the already copious 25GB in free storage offered by SkyDrive. In comparison, iCloud only offers 5GB of free cloud storage, however Apple's system does not count Photo Stream, iTunes' media, apps and iBooks against the limit.

According to Microsoft's blog, the Metro-style cloud-based Windows 8 app will share characteristics with Dropbox in that users can sync and backup certain files automatically, though SkyDrive goes further and allows limited remote access to files not synced to the cloud. Maximum file size for remote file fetching is pegged at 2GB.

SkyDrive OS X client

Screenshot of purported Microsoft SkyDrive Windows and Mac client downloads. | Source: Gemind


Ars Technica points out that website LiveSide.net also posted screenshots that showed SkyDrive would support file sharing through social networks like Twitter and Facebook, BitLocker recovery keys, OpenDocument files from Office Web Apps and URL shortening.

iCloud's current file-syncing implementation is aimed mainly at iOS users who can backup device profiles and data to the cloud. Apple's free service does support certain automatic syncing to OS X programs such as Photo Stream and a clunky Pages document syncing procedure, but the process is not as smooth as other third-party solutions.

This situation could change when OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is released this summer as many iOS features like Notification Center and iMessage will be ported to the desktop operating system, though no official word has been given regarding iCloud upgrades.

Apple has invested heavily in iCloud, and the service which was introduced alongside iOS 5 could be getting more features, as previous reports that the company offered to buy Dropbox in a failed nine figure deal point to a definite interest in automatic file storage and syncing.

SkyDrive sharing

SkyDrive's social network sharing feature. | Source: LiveSide.net


The SkyDrive update is set to launch later this year with support for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 already announced.

It remains to be seen which Windows 8 SkyDrive features will be implemented in the rumored Mac client, if any, and to what extent the service will affect iCloud.