If you're not a fan of how Microsoft has cut the placeholders functionality from OneDrive in Windows 10, today's news won't do much to help. But the company has confirmed that by consolidating how OneDrive device sync works it will also be able to add some crucial missing functionality—including access to OneDrive shared files and OneDrive for Business files—in time for the initial shipping version of Windows 10.
Microsoft revealed its plans for OneDrive back in November when it shipped the final Windows 10 preview build of 2014. It's not clear why many didn't really believe what was happening, but I described it accurately in Here's What's Really Happening to OneDrive in Windows 10 in mid-November. The problem is, this system is indeed broken as-is. And I wrote about that a month later in Here's Where the New OneDrive Strategy Falls Apart.
In a new post to the OneDrive blog, Microsoft reiterates its strategy and explains why it must consolidate the OneDrive sync engine used by various clients. Honestly, there isn't really any new information here per se, but it's helpful to communicate this so there's no further misunderstanding. When I first reported on this information in November, I got a lot of push-back, and many believed that I was either wrong, or that Microsoft would change its mind because of negative feedback.
That's not happening. But here is what is happening.
First, Microsoft wants OneDrive to be the most reliable way to store content, share it, and collaborate with friends, family, and co-workers.
It is building features like the ability to sync shared folders, and selective sync ... across all platforms.
It is consolidating OneDrive (consumer) and OneDrive for Business into a single technology and engine, and each OneDrive client will be able to access both services on all devices.
It will add placeholder-like functionality to OneDrive at some time in the future. But not in time for the initial release of Windows 10.
To do all this, Microsoft needed to start with a common sync engine that would work well on all platforms, and that meant using the one from Windows 7/Mac, not the version with placeholders from Windows 8.1. This was the source of the outrage, of course, since the Windows 8.1 system is so elegant. Though as I've explained already, and Microsoft has again today, that system also has technical issues.
"There are important capabilities that we need to bring to Windows 10 – some will make it into the first release – including shared folders and support for the consumer and business service," the post reiterates. "However, others will come in updates that follow later in the calendar year – most notably the core capabilities of placeholders that are both reliable and comprehensible."
What will this coming feature that provides "the core capabilities of placeholders" look like? We don't know. But as I noted previously, this won't happen in time for Windows 10, so we're going to have to deal with the current system until sometime later. Hopefully what Microsoft comes up with is elegant and works well. And hopefully it works across all the supported platforms too.