Dropbox, Google and Microsoft are ramping up their cloud file storage and sharing products with new simplified functions, broader integration and in Microsoft's case, more free storage.
Pioneering cloud storage provider Dropbox on Monday announced a new “link” service that generates a URL for users to share videos and pictures that can be viewed through any browser and downloaded if required.
A quick test of the service shows that Dropbox only generates links to videos and photos, while documents can be downloaded from Dropbox’s website.
The new link service comes ahead of the launch of Google’s Drive app, expected this week, which is rumoured to trump Dropbox’s 2GB free storage with a 5GB offering on par with Apple iCloud's free limit.
What remains to be seen is how Google will price storage above the free quota, and whether it will model itself around Dropbox (sharing with anyone) or Apple's iCloud (designed primarily to sync data and files between multiple devices owned by the one user).
Microsoft for its part on Monday announced a preview desktop version of SkyDrive for Windows 8, Windows 7 and Vista that, similar to DropBox, can be managed through Windows Explorer.
Microsoft’s SkyDrive free cloud storage quota will also trump Google’s expected 5 GB offer with 7 GB of free storage. Microsoft claims that's enough to cover 99 per cent of users’ “entire Office document library and share photos for several years”.
Would-be SkyDrive users will need to set up a Windows Live ID linked to a credit card or PayPal account to go beyond the free quota, but it appears at this stage Microsoft has the cheapest offering.
Microsoft’s paid storage plans begin at US$10 a year for anything over 20GB, US$25 a year over 50GB and US$50 a year for over 100GB.
This significantly undercuts Apple’s iCloud prices, which demand US$20 a year for 10GB additional storage over the free 5GB, US$40 a year for 20 GB additional storage and US$100 a year for anything up to 55GB.
Dropbox prices are currently US$99 a year for up to 50GB and US$199 a year for up to 100GB.
Microsoft has drawn up a table highlighting its broader integration with multiple mobile and desktop platforms different features between SkyDrive, Apple’s iCloud, Google and Dropbox.
While Microsoft is aiming to deliver a service that makes it easy to “get up and running”, installing the application requires registering a Windows Live account to use SkyDrive, a process which took this reporter (using OS X Lion) over an hour to establish, unlike Dropbox's simple and quick installation.
Microsoft has also updated its SkyDrive app for Windows Phone and iOS devices, along with a beta version of Apple’s latest operating system, Mac OS X Lion.