Microsoft SkyDrive and Dropbox prepare for cloud feature battle

Google Drive is on the horizon, and existing cloud providers are adding features.

Google Drive is expected to launch any day now, and competing services such as Dropbox and Microsoft's SkyDrive are preparing for battle with their own feature enhancements.

On Monday, Microsoft announced an overhaul to its Skydrive storage service. Here's a rundown of the new features:

- In a nod to Dropbox, new apps for Windows and Mac OS X Lion allow users to sync their files on the desktop, using a dedicated Skydrive folder in Windows Explorer or Mac Finder. Using the Windows app for SkyDrive, users can now drag and drop files to the cloud.

- Microsoft updated its SkyDrive iOS app to include iPad support, file management, sharing via Web links, and multiple photo and video uploads.

- Users running SkyDrive on a Windows PC can now access their entire hard drive--not just the files stored on SkyDrive--from SkyDrive.com after a two-step authentication process.

- Microsoft decreased the amount of free storage it will offer to new users, from 25 GB to 7 GB, but removed the previous 5 GB limit on desktop syncing. Existing users can hang onto their free 25 GB of storage--without limits on syncing--by logging into the Manage Storage page at SkyDrive.com.

Also on Monday, Dropbox began letting users share their online files with anyone, even people who don't have Dropbox accounts. Users can simply right-click on the file or folder they'd like to share, select "Get Link," and copy the URL. (Competitors like SugarSync and Box already offer link sharing.)

Numerous reports suggest that the launch of Google Drive is imminent, after years of rumors. According to The Next Web, the service will include 5 GB of free storage and will offer desktop sync apps for Windows and Mac. The so-called GDrive may also work with third-party apps, allowing them to save documents online, GigaOM reported last month.

Although there's no shortage of other online storage services, Google is likely to make a splash due to name recognition alone. Google could also gain an advantage by tying online storage to other Google products, such as Chrome, Gmail, and Android. In any case, it seems like we're already in for a cloud storage feature war, so stay tuned.

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Jared Newman

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