Channeling the Cloud

Windows 8 and Office 2013 Bring Skydrive to the Fore

The release of Windows 8 and the launch of Office 2013 early next year promise to play a key role in bringing cloud computing to the mainstream.

Windows 8 has arrived, and though it'll take some time before customers warm up to the most radically redesigned release of the OS to date, the launch of this new platform will be remembered as an inflexion point that ushered in the post-PC era for Windows and Office.

And while it introduces major change on a number of levels, the release of Windows 8 and the launch of Office 2013 early next year promise to play a key role in bringing cloud computing to the mainstream.

Not that the cloud is a novelty today. Millions of smartphone users and those with tablets -- notably iPads -- are already using some form of cloud service to store photos, music and even documents.

So how do Windows 8 and Office 2013 up the ante for cloud computing? The common denominator is the Microsoft SkyDrive service. Though it's been around for some time, Windows 8 and Office 2013 bring SkyDrive front-and-center. I've tested both the Windows 8 release-to-manufacturing version and the Office 2013 beta on a Samsung Series 7 Slate PC with an Intel Core i5 processor. Microsoft has made saving a document, file, photo or any other content in the cloud as routine as saving it on your PC's hard drive or a network share.

In fact, the first Word 2013 document I saved went right into my SkyDrive Documents folder. I already had access to SkyDrive by virtue of logging on to the Windows 8 tablet. To be sure, SkyDrive is one of numerous cloud services of its type. There's Dropbox (which I also use routinely), Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive and a slew of others. There are also more-sophisticated services that offer higher levels of collaboration and security, such as those from Box, Citrix and LogMeIn.

With SkyDrive on the Start screen of the new Windows 8 UI and likewise built into the new Office, it's the default setting for users to save all of their content. That doesn't mean you're locked into SkyDrive. Just as you have the option of downloading multiple browsers, you can integrate any cloud service you choose.

I find SkyDrive refreshingly appealing in its own right. For one thing, Microsoft offers 7GB free -- and if, like myself, you were fortunate enough to sign up for a SkyDrive account before April, you get to keep the original free 25GB of capacity. SkyDrive was initially cumbersome to use, but the most recent revamp effectively makes it look like and function as just another drive. In addition to working with Windows Phone, it's also available on iPhones, iPads and Android devices. The app is also easy to use. If you're a Microsoft partner and you haven't tried the new SkyDrive on a PC, tablet or phone, you owe it to yourself and your customers to take it for a spin.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.