New SkyDrive rivals Dropbox, mimics Megaupload

SkyDrive absorbs much of Mesh's functionality as Microsoft's ongoing improvements put the cloud service light years ahead of Dropbox

Just in time for the widely anticipated Google Drive, expected to launch today, Microsoft has released a barrage of improvements to SkyDrive.

The new "preview" apps for Vista, Windows 7, and the Windows 8 Legacy Desktop integrate SkyDrive into Windows Explorer. Install the app and a new SkyDrive folder appears in your user folder. Drag files to the folder and they're synced across your other devices and the cloud, almost exactly like Dropbox. In every respect, files in the SkyDrive folder inside Windows Explorer behave just like files anywhere else on your computer or network. Microsoft also has clients for Mac OS X Lion, iOS (including the Retina display), and Windows Phone, and they behave similarly.

That's the part you know about. Here's the part you might not know.

Once you've put a file in the Public folder -- whether by dragging it there in Windows Explorer or by logging on to Skydrive.com and uploading the file -- you can create a URL that points to the file. Here's how: Log on to Skydrive.com; select the file you want to share; on the right, under Sharing, choose Share; then on the left choose Get a Link. SkyDrive gives you a choice of generating a URL that will let people view, or view and edit, the file. Send the URL to anybody -- really, anybody -- and they can download the file.

That's the Megaupload shtick, and frankly, I'm surprised SkyDrive supports it.

Also, if you've never tried to "fetch" a file, it's worth a gander. Install the new app on a random computer (you have to supply a Windows Live ID -- er, Microsoft Account), leave it running, then go to a different computer and log on to SkyDrive.com using the same Microsoft Account.

On the left side of the SkyDrive.com screen you'll see a navigation pane that includes a list of computers that are currently logged on using that same Microsoft Account. Click on that random computer's name, and SkyDrive offers to send a verification code to your mobile phone or alternate email address. (See this Microsoft blog for details about the mechanics.) Type in the SMSed or emailed code, and all of a sudden you're browsing the files on that random computer. Once you're inside the other computer, you can "fetch" any file and haul it into the SkyDrive folder.

You can use a Mac to fetch files on a Windows computer, but you can't use Windows to fetch files on a Mac.

Slick. It isn't as slick as Mesh, which lets you log onto the random computer's desktop, but it's light-years ahead of Dropbox.

One more point you may have missed. If you already have a SkyDrive and it has at least one file in it, you qualify for a free upgrade to 25GB of storage. (Free storage taps out at 7GB for new users.) To claim your free 25GB, head over to the Limited Time Loyalty offer site -- and wonder at the fact that Microsoft is rewarding your Limited Loyalty.

This story, "New SkyDrive rivals Dropbox, mimics Megaupload," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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