Updated April 3 to include statement from Microsoft on in-app purchases.
Microsoft today released version 3.0 of its SkyDrive app for iOS. It’s a significant update to an app that was last refreshed in June 2012, when support for Retina devices was added.
The most significant change in this update, announced in a post on the Inside SkyDrive blog, is compatibility with newer iOS devices, specifically the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. A scan of recent reviews for version 2.1 suggests that this was the number-one item on users’ wish lists.
The new version also addresses issues that had caused iOS users to ding the previous version in reviews. One of the biggest is the ability to download full resolution photos to an iOS device. In the previous version, it was possible to upload full resolution photos, but downloads were automatically resized to a lower resolution. With the new app, you can control the size of uploads and downloads. In addition, the sync process now reportedly includes full metadata for photo files.
Version 3.0 also reportedly improves the process of opening and uploading SkyDrive files using other iOS apps.
And, of course, there are the usual “bug fixes and performance improvements.”
Notably absent are any links, direct or indirect, to Microsoft's paid upgrade options for SkyDrive. That's in keeping with Apple's guidelines for the App Store, which require that it get a 30 percent cut of any revenues for purchases made within the app. That's the same approach that other "freemium" apps, such as Dropbox, Amazon's Kindle, and Spotify, use to avoid running afoul of App Store rules.
Some reports in recent months suggested that Apple had refused to approve the updated app over the issue of in-app payments. In a statement today, a Microsoft spokesperson didn't directly confirm those reports, but did note that this app isn't like its others: "We worked with Apple to create a solution that benefited our mutual customers. The SkyDrive app for iOS is slightly different than other SkyDrive apps in that people interested in buying additional storage will do so via the web versus in the app."
For Microsoft, SkyDrive is a strategic service, a core part of the company’s transformation into a “devices and services” company. With its 7 GB of free online storage, SkyDrive is tightly integrated into Windows 8 and Office 2013. It’s a crowded field, with Dropbox and Google Drive as key competitors who are well represented on iOS.
But this release is really just a tease for the iOS app everyone is expecting from Microsoft. The company won't discuss its plans to release a version of Office for iPhone and iPad, but rumors. Having a robust SkyDrive app that works with all iOS devices is a prerequisite for a subscription-based Office app for iOS.