Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service is set to receive some substantial upgrades this year, according to news from both official and unofficial channels. File synchronization, secure remote access, and Windows 8 integration have been demonstrated by Microsoft, and rumored improvements include paid storage upgrades, secure storage of BitLocker keys, a new Mac client, and support for OpenDocument (ODF) files.
Pictures leaked by Brazilian site Gemind showed off the paid storage options, allowing an extra 20, 50, or 100 GB to be added to SkyDrive's base 25GB, for $10, $25, or $50 per year. The same pictures also encourage users to download a SkyDrive client for Windows or Mac OS X.
LiveSide.net followed Gemind's pictures with some of its own, showing options to store BitLocker recovery keys in SkyDrive, support for OpenDocument spreadsheets, documents, and presentations from within the Office Web Apps, and URL shortening and easier sharing of files via Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks.
Also on LiveSide.net were images demonstrating remote file access, and an increase of the maximum file size (with LiveSide claiming it had grown to 300 MB per file). These two features were almost immediately confirmed by Microsoft in a post on its Building Windows 8 blog, though it looks like LiveSide.net got one detail wrong: the maximum file size has been increased to 2GB per file.
Microsoft's post demonstrated SkyDrive's integration into Windows 8, allowing files to be seamlessly saved and opened to SkyDrive as easily as if it were local storage. Systems running the SkyDrive client (Microsoft confirmed that this would be available for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8, with the Mac client remaining a rumor at this point) will also be accessible remotely, giving access to files that haven't been synced to the cloud.
Currently a similar feature is found as part of Microsoft's Live Mesh product—the company has slowly been integrating Live Mesh's features with SkyDrive, and this is the latest step towards fusing the products.
SkyDrive is becoming an increasingly important part of the company's "three screens and a cloud" strategy. Windows 8 users will be able to share their settings and preferences across machines via SkyDrive, and SkyDrive will power synchronization of files, music, and videos between Windows 8 machines and Windows Phone 8 handsets.