SkyDrive users will be interested to discover that Microsoft's cloud storage service will be integrated into the Xbox One user experience in a way that mimics the service's availability in Windows 8.x and Windows Phone. This is a step up from SkyDrive access in the Xbox 360 and speaks to the integration strategy that makes sticking with the Microsoft stack such a huge advantage to users.
"We're really happy to be announcing SkyDrive on Xbox One," Microsoft's Jeff Henshaw says in a video you can view below. "It's part of our bigger vision to bring all of the entertainment that people love together in one device on one input on your television. With SkyDrive, we're able to bring your personal content and even shared photos, music and videos into the Xbox One experience."
To understand the differences, consider how SkyDrive works on the Xbox 360 today. There's a standalone SkyDrive app, and you can use this app to play photos or videos you've copied to your SkyDrive storage. But the app is buried in the Apps interface in the Xbox 360 dashboard, and your SkyDrive-based content doesn't appear in logical places in the dashboard, like TV & Movies or Music. (It also isn't a source in the System Video Player or System Music Player.) In other words, you need to think "SkyDrive" first and then go from there. That's not the way most people work.
For Xbox One, Microsoft is going with a bit more integrated approach that expands somewhat on SkyDrive access in Xbox 360. Here's what's happening.
A focus on photos and videos. As with SkyDrive for Xbox 360, SkyDrive for Xbox One focuses on photos and videos, "the things that are going to look great on your television" as Henshaw notes.
Voice integration. Like everything else in Xbox One, you can access SkyDrive's functionality via Kinect-based voice commands. "Xbox, go to SkyDrive" will launch the SkyDrive app, for example. But you can also use voice for some pretty granular searches. For example, Henshaw uses the search query "panoramas shared by Doug," which is pretty powerful.
SkyDrive app. As with the Xbox 360, you can use a standalone SkyDrive app, as noted, and it looks and works much like its predecessor.
Photo slideshows and video playback. As with the SkyDrive app on Xbox 360, you can navigate into a folder of photos and trigger a nice photo slideshow (which has some nice effects not present in the 360 version). You can also play any videos found in SkyDrive.
More photo capabilities. In addition to viewing individual photos or slideshows, you can zoom into individual photos, and pan through them, neither of which is possible on the 360.
Shared content. Like the Xbox 360—but unlike Windows 8.1—you can also access content that others have shared with you via SkyDrive.
One Guide integration. As noted previously, SkyDrive is integrated into Xbox One in a way that is not on the 360, so you don't need to only use the SkyDrive app to access your content. You can also see SkyDrive content in the One Guide, which is sort of a channel guide on steroids. That is, it combines your broadcast TV guide with so-called app channels that let media apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO GO expose their content as a channel in the lineup. SkyDrive automatically creates Pictures and Camera Roll channels in this One Guide, and you can add your own custom channels that represent shared content from friends and family. Sounds pretty powerful.
Snap and see. This isn't new to the Xbox One per se, but it's worth noting that if you use the Camera Roll functionality in SkyDrive to automatically back up all of your photos to the cloud as you take them, you can go out for the day, take a bunch of photos, and then sit down in your living room and view them in HD resolution on your HDTV. You don't need to worry about copying them to your PC, storing them on a hard drive or memory stick or any other manual task: It's all automatic.
Snap. Xbox One supports a Snap feature similar to that in Windows 8.1 (and completely unrelated to the "snap and see" feature mentioned above, which refers to snapping photos with a camera app on a smart phone) in which you can run two apps side by side. This lets you look at photos in one area on screen in SkyDrive, for example, and learn more about the location in Internet Explorer or whatever. (Eh. What would be more interesting is if Bing had visual search and could automatically launch a web search based on one of your photos. Just saying.)
Here's that video I mentioned for the full tour.