Microsoft today announced a set of improvements to OneDrive storage allotments, dramatically improving the value of what is already the best cloud storage service for consumers. Under the new scheme, the free storage quota doubles to 15 GB and every user who subscribes to a consumer version of Office 365 gets a full 1 TB. Still interested in buying storage? That's cheaper too.
"We really want to make OneDrive the one place for all the stuff that people have in their personal and work lives," OneDrive head of product management and product marketing Angus Logan told me late last week. "And part of delivering that is to give people enough storage to move all their stuff into the cloud. Now, they don't need to worry about space anymore."
Microsoft is announcing three changes to OneDrive today: An increase in the free storage quota, a major increase in the OneDrive storage quota given to Office 365 Personal and Home subscribers, and lower pricing on additional storage. So let's look at each.
Free OneDrive storage goes from 7 GB to 15 GB
Everyone with a Microsoft account currently gets 7 GB of OneDrive-based cloud storage for free (excluding early SkyDrive adopters, who still get 25 GB grandfathered). But that base storage quota is now being doubled to 15 GB.
"When we launched with 7 GB, the world was a little different," Logan told me. "We didn't have Lumia devices, for example." (Lumia 1020, 1520, and Icon/930 can all take very high resolution photos which take up a lot more space than most smart phone photos.) "7 GB was a lot then, and the most that people were offered for free until recently."
Now, Microsoft wants its customers to move everything into the cloud. So they're raising the base. But you may be wondering: Why 15 GB? Is that an arbitrary doubling of storage space? Not according to Microsoft: Its telemetry data shows that 75 percent of its users have less than 15 GB of data on their PCs' hard drives. So that 15 GB of free data will allow most customers to store all of their personal data in the cloud and then replicate it to their various PCs and devices as desired.
By way of comparison, Google also offers 15 GB of free storage shared across services, while Dropbox is just 2 GB and Apple's iCloud is 5 GB. But none of those services have as available across all device types, and only OneDrive offers you the ability to backup all of your smart phone and tablet photos—regardless of OS—to the service. That's right, you could use a Windows Phone, iPhone and Android handset, and backup the photos from all of them to a single location. (I know because I do this.)
"Hundreds of millions of people will be impacted because we doubled the storage," Logan noted.
Office 365 Personal and Home subscriber OneDrive storage goes from 20 GB to 1 TB per user
This middle bit is arguably the biggest news, because it directly impacts the value of both OneDrive and Office 365 Personal and Home: Anyone who uses Office 365 Personal or Home now gets 1 TB of additional OneDrive storage, up from 20 GB previously. That's not just a massive change, it's a complete reset of how one might assess those subscription services.
"Any [service] can do storage," Logan told me. "But selling storage subscriptions are not interesting. We think end to end experiences are better, and that's why we're putting these storage allotments behind Office 365 and increasing the storage by 50 times to 1 TB."
So let's put this in perspective.
An Office 365 Personal subscription costs $6.99 per month (or $69.99 per year). It provides a full-featured copy of Office 2013 Professional Plus that the individual subscriber can install on a single PC, plus one install of Office for iPad (or, soon, Office for Android tablets or touch-first Office for Windows), and an unlimited number of Office Mobile installs on Windows Phones, iPhones and Android handsets. (You also get 60 world minutes of Skype calling per month to 60+ countries.) And that 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
Google charges $9.99 per month for just 1 TB of cloud storage. No full Office. No Office for tablets. No Skype minutes. It's a no brainer.
And if you do want to spend $9.99 per month (or $99 per year)—or simply need more than a single full Office install—check this one out: That's the price of Office 365 Home, which provides all those features listed above, but for up to 5 users. So that 1 TB of OneDrive storage is for each user. Everyone gets 1 TB. It's not split between the users.
Almost no one has over 1 TB of personal data. That's enough space to store everything: All of your photos, all of your documents, your entire music collection, videos, whatever. That is an amazing deal.
Paid storage is now less expensive
Today, Microsoft offers OneDrive customers with a variety of paid storage options, so you can upgrade from the 7 GB (now 15 GB) default amount to various tiers on an annual basis. The pricing and availability of these paid storage tiers is changing too.
Until today, the following options were available:
50 GB of additional OneDrive storage for $25 per year
100 GB of additional OneDrive storage for $50 per year
200 GB of additional OneDrive storage for $100 per year
As you can see, for the same price of 200 GB of additional storage yesterday, you could today get Office 365 Home with five Office installs and up to 5 TB of additional storage (1 TB per user). That's a much, much better deal. But some people may just want additional storage, sans Office. So Microsoft is now offering the following paid storage tiers for OneDrive:
100 GB of additional OneDrive storage for $1.99 per month ($24 per year)
200 GB of additional OneDrive storage for $3.99 per month ($48 per year)
In other words, about half the previous pricing. Plus you're getting another 8 GB for free.
In addition to these very concrete announcements, Microsoft also communicated that it's thinking about how it can make OneDrive better going forward, and it's looking specifically at how people use the service to prioritize improvements. One area of exploration is the OneDrive Camera Roll: This is the folder to which all of your device-based photos are backed up. Today, the OneDrive Camera Roll is just a single dumb folder with all of your photos listed chronologically. But since we've now been using this functionality for years, many people are finding the single view to be a bit limiting. I have over 7500 photos in my OneDrive Camera Roll, for example. So Microsoft is working on ways to automatically organize these photos—perhaps by event—on all compatible devices.
People are also taking more videos with their smart phones. So OneDrive will be updated to allow for instant playback of these personal videos on the web and on personal devices, providing users with the type of seamless experience they expect.
And sharing is a major area of work, too: People share photos pretty regularly from their smart phones, of course, so Microsoft is looking at ways in which that can happen, across services, more seamlessly.
Throughout all of these and other areas in which Microsoft is looking, the theme is the same: OneDrive is the connective tissue that works across devices and powers content consumption, collaboration, and sharing. And while I wasn't able to shake a particular schedule out of anyone, it's not hard to look at how much OneDrive has improved over just the past year to understand that these and other improvements will no doubt rollout fairly regularly over time. And not a long time.
Put another way, OneDrive has been the clear choice for personal cloud data storage for some time. And today's announcements only cement that notion. As always, OneDrive just keeps getting better.