Microsoft has taken the wraps off its plan for how SkyDrive will work in Windows 8: it will become a single drive that enables access to files across all apps and devices.
The Metro-style SkyDrive app.
The idea, laid out in the Building Windows 8 blog, is that if users can access cloud-stored files from any app or any PC, then they won't have to convert files or copy them from one place to another, or from one cloud to another, as they'll be accessing them all the time from the same drive. Instead of copying files over when they open a new PC, the files will be available immediately. All that users need to do is register their email on the PC running Windows 8, and then, when they save files on SkyDrive, every Windows 8 device will provide access to the files.
Files can be browsed and accessed through the SkyDrive Metro-style app, but can also be picked from the drive or saved to the drive through apps.
Developers won't have to labour to support the SkyDrive functionality, according to group program managers for SkyDrive, Mike Torres and Omar Shahine. They said that any app that supports open and save for documents and photos will enable this file sharing.
Microsoft Windows 8 uses a concept called charms, wherein "charms" can be dragged on to the screen to complete functions. SkyDrive files will be available through the Share charm, enabling users to share documents or photos through Windows 8's mail app, negating the need for attachments.
Users will be able to access files offline with the desktop app, which will also run on Windows Vista and Windows 7. Once installed, it will sync your SkyDrive into a chosen folder, and keep it up to date in both directions as files change. This app will also help users when they migrate to Windows 8.
SkyDrive for the desktop will also support uploading large files of up to 2GB through Windows Explorer.
Given that not everyone will want to put all of their files in to the cloud straightaway, Microsoft has also announced a feature that enables users to access files from any remote PC that is running SkyDrive on the desktop.
"We realise this is more of an enthusiast feature, as most people won't have an always-on PC at home, but for those who do, fetching files works like magic," Shahine and Torres said.
They also acknowledged that accessing a PC from a web browser could be abused, and said that Microsoft is adding another layer of protection, with users having to go through a second factor of authentication (a code sent to the user's mobile phone or email) to access the remote PC.
These features will become available in the next few months.