In addition to iCloud, there are a number of other cloud services available to Mac and iOS users. Dropbox, Box.net, and Google Docs all come to mind immediately and each offers its own set of features. Another option that isn’t discussed so much by Apple users is Microsoft’s SkyDrive.
Although SkyDrive has offered a basic iOS app and web access from Macs and iOS devices, the functionality has been a bit limited. Newly leaked details of an OS X SkyDrive app, however, indicate that Microsoft may be planning to compete against iCloud on Apple’s home turf.
The move shouldn’t come as a surprise, Microsoft already offers some integration with SkyDrive in Office for Mac 2011 (as well as integration with Microsoft’s SharePoint in business environments). Offering a more robust sync solution is simply an expansion of that vision. The move is part of a personal cloud push on Microsoft’s part around the company’s plans for Windows 8.
Exactly what sync functions Microsoft will offer Mac users isn’t clear. Neither is how much integration Microsoft will be able to pull off when it comes to some of the Mac apps that Apple has integrated with iCloud.
iPhoto offers a great example of where Apple might impose limitations that Microsoft could have to accept. It’s the go-to solution for most Mac users when it comes to photo management and it offers incredibly effortless syncing with iOS devices in the form of iCloud’s Photostream feature. Although Apple does allow iPhoto plug-ins that connect to third-party services like Shutterfly and Picassa, they don’t offer that same level of automatic integration.
Where Microsoft may not be able to compete on integrated features, it may be able to compete on capacity. Each free SkyDrive account comes with 25GB of storage compared to iCloud’s 5GB. For people that share large files that could be attractive though it’s worth noting that Apple doesn’t count Photostream or iTunes Store content against that limit.
The feature may be particularly attractive for users that switch between Macs and PCs quite frequently. Apple does offer an iCloud control panel applet for Windows, but more Windows-centric users may prefer a deeper level of integration on their PCs.