The past couple of weeks have revealed some new branding and a few feature changes
with two of Microsoft’s cloud-focused products.

SkyDrive is now OneDrive

Thanks to a small trademark issue, Microsoft made the
decision a while back to rebrand its SkyDrive cloud storage offering as
OneDrive. Microsoft has indicated that
the name change better reflects the company’s desire to allow their customers to
store their important files in “one” place — hence OneDrive.

However, along with the name change comes a few new features
and changes to the previous service offering. Here are some of the new features that you’ll see with OneDrive:

  • 7 GB free. Users new to OneDrive get 7 GB of cloud-based storage just for signing
    up. To get more, customers simply need
    to refer friends to the service. Each
    referred customer results in a 500 MB storage bonus for the referrer, and each
    customer can refer up to 10 friends — that’s up to 5 GB
    of additional storage at no charge. For
    those who choose to use the new photo upload feature (detailed below), another
    3 GB is granted. So, at no charge, users
    can get up to 15 GB of free cloud-based storage from OneDrive. Of course, there are also a number of paid
    options for users who need 25 GB, 50 GB, or even more storage.  For those who opt into an Office 365
    subscription, the OneDrive space allocation is a whopping 100 GB.
  • Android photo upload. This feature allows users to automatically upload photos
    from an Android device to OneDrive. This is also available for iOS and Windows Phone devices.
  • Cross platform and application. Have an Xbox? You’ve got OneDrive. Have a
    Windows 8 PC? You have OneDrive. Have a Windows Phone? You have OneDrive. Microsoft has made
    OneDrive available across Windows, Windows Phone, Office, Xbox, iPhone, iPad, Android
    phones/tablets, Windows devices, and Macs. On newer systems and in newer versions of Office, OneDrive is the
    default storage location. This can be
    good or bad; it’s good in that your files are always stored in the
    centrally-accessible cloud environment, but bad in that you need an Internet
    connection to access those files unless you also synchronize them locally.

Of course, OneDrive is but one service among many providing
similar features. Its biggest advantage is its complete integration with Windows and Office, plus its compatible with other platforms.

Office Web Apps is now Office Online

Along with the newly rebranded OneDrive comes a rebranded
set of Office applications. Formerly
known as Office Web Apps, these tools are now called Office Online. With Office Online, you’ll find web-based
versions of Office apps, each providing a subset of features from the main
Office suite. In Figure A, you can see
the entrance page for Office Online.  

Figure A

 

 

Office Online entrance page.

Figure B gives you a look at the newly rebranded Word Online.

Figure B

 

 

Word Online.

I’ve seen the Office Online apps (formerly Office Web Apps)
derided as substandard tools. However,
in my experience, I’ve found them to be very good and quite capable of handling
typical needs. Of course, if you need
advanced features, you’ll need to use a full, local product suite.

The Office Online apps are available via both OneDrive.com
and Outlook.com. The online product suite includes the following apps:

  • Word Online
  • Excel Online
  • OneNote Online
  • PowerPoint Online

The previous Office Web Apps were sometimes kind of hard to
find, but Office Online apps are
front and center. And, not to be outdone
by Google, Microsoft also added real-time collaboration in Office Web Apps last November, so the new apps
are more than suitable, even when deep collaboration is a must.

When using one of the Office Online apps, users can
quickly access any of the other apps by clicking the down arrow to the right of
the app name and opening the app bar (Figure C).

Figure C

 

 

Office Online application bar.

Summary

While no radical changes have been made to these services,
their evolution has been interesting to watch. Microsoft’s various cloud plays have been confusing over the years, so it’s nice to see the company finally consolidating their products in a way that
begins to make more sense to the user.

What do you think about Microsoft’s rebranding efforts? Do you use OneDrive and Office Online in your organization? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.