Microsoft's OneDrive to take on Google Drive and Dropbox

What does the OneDrive cloud service have going for it? Why, Microsoft's four-decade legacy and the reputation that goes with it, of course.

Over the years, critics occasionally -- and justifiably -- slammed Microsoft for cramming too many features into its software. But could that ingrained habit yet work to Microsoft's advantage as it relaunches its consumer cloud storage service in a young market that's up for grabs?

Microsoft on Wednesday officially announced the global availability of its rebranded cloud storage service OneDrive. Microsoft originally called the service SkyDrive but was forced to rebrand after British Sky Broadcasting, the biggest pay-television broadcaster in the United Kingdom, sued and won a trademark lawsuit over use of the name.

Besides the new markings, Microsoft is offering the first 7 gigabytes of storage free along with a couple of additional bonus offers. As expected, Microsoft users will receive up to 5GB of free storage for referrals. Another freebee: 3GB of storage to anyone using the service's camera backup feature. You can read more about CNET's hands-on review here.

"Five or 10 years from now, if you say that you lost a file, your kids will look at you funny," said Chris Jones, the Microsoft vice president in charge of the company's OS Services group. "It's not going to happen."

"That's the dream," Jones acknowledged, noting the continuing specter posed by security breaches. It was a battle, he said, "that's never going to be over."

Chris Jones, Microsoft VP OS Services

And now Microsoft has a chance to spin bad news into good news. The company has years of experience warding off myriad security challenges from what its executives frankly describe as "determined and persistent adversaries." But bumps in the road notwithstanding, Microsoft has learned to navigate the front lines of the security wars. (See Trustworthy Computing for more.)

So while Microsoft often gets dinged for moving too slowly, weighted down by "baggage" accumulated over nearly four decades, might that same legacy work in its favor? As more people look to cloud storage, there will be no shortage of pitches. In a crowded field, a good reputation surely is going to be worth a battalion of sales and marketing people. Apropos, consider these findings from a Harris company survey carried out last December at Microsoft's behest.

  • Four out of five people responding to the survey -- who did not use cloud storage -- said that they remained "wary of lesser-known cloud storage offerings" and flagged concerns about privacy and security.
  • About two of three people who expressed being "at least somewhat knowledgeable about cloud storage" aren't using the services.
  • 66 percent of these non-users were not ready to trust cloud storage with important files -- again, because they say it's neither sufficiently secure nor sufficiently private

Let's be careful here. "Lesser-known cloud offerings" is a loosey-goosey umbrella term. Someone who doesn't obsess over the latest tech fashion out of Silicon Valley might not be as familiar with Apple's iCloud, Box, iCloud, SugarSync, or Google Drive as some of you. But by this definition, those offerings would still get lumped in (misleadingly) with the "lesser-known" crowd. Besides, not being a household name isn't necessarily a deal kidder: Consider the case of SpiderOak, which received higher marks for security than its better-known competitors from this Ars reviewer.)

Still, there's the psychological safety of going with a big, established brand, and Jones understands that. He was on message throughout his CNET interview, playing up Microsoft's "commitment" and "reputation" when it came to protecting user data. And that was the smart thing to say. In a world where big cyber breaches are a fact of life and 100 percent security guarantees don't exist anymore, the unspoken message is: Go with who you know.

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