A week ago, Microsoft handed out a bunch of free storage to consumers as part of its transition from SkyDrive to OneDrive. On Monday, the company announced its own plan to attract new business users to its cloud storage technology.
OneDrive (nee SkyDrive) is already part of the Office 365 suite or SharePoint Online, presented as a value-added addition to the core application suite. But beginning April 1, Microsoft will turn that offer on its head: A standalone service will charge for OneDrive itself, and bundle it with the free Office Online suite of Web apps that Microsoft previously introduced.
Specifically, from April through September, Microsoft will charge only $2.50 per user per month, a 50 percent discount. For businesses with existing Software Advantage or Office 365 ProPlus agreements the price will only be $1.50 per user per month, Julia White, the general manager of Office, said in a blog post. Each employee will receive 25 GB of online OneDrive storage as part of the plan.
"Not only is OneDrive for Business a simple and intuitive file sync and storage solution for employees, it’s a trusted service that provides enterprise-grade content management, compliance, and administrative controls, and it is financially backed by the industry-leading Office 365 Service Level Agreement," White wrote.
Microsoft made the announcement as part of a number of significant changes and enhancements to Office 365 and its other cloud services as part of its SharePoint conference.
The move could indicate that Microsoft is willing to reconsider and experiment its traditional pricing model. Last week, sources told The Verge that Microsoft was testing a free version of Windows, perhaps in preparation for monetizing its services, rather than the operating system. However, Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said via Twitter that he saw the announcement as a response to low-cost cloud storage services from Dropbox and Box.
Microsoft also revealed several enhancements to the OneDrive interface, which is currently available to Macs and PCs, as well as through Office Mobile for iPhone and Android phones, plus Windows Phones.
Microsoft simplified the control scheme, placing the most common tasks in OneDrive for Business directly above the document folder, including creating new Office documents, uploading files, and syncing them for offline use. The app also added site folders for sites within a particular organization, and improved search with type-ahead features. Users can also access OneDrive for Business documents by typing in "http://<tenant>.onedrive.com"
Further improvements will include advanced auditing and reporting features, encryption at rest, data loss prevention (DLP), extensibility improvements, even higher storage limits, and more. And as the new "Oslo" app experience points out, Microsoft plans to tie the capabilities of each app closer to other services within the company; White promised "deeper cross-Office 365 experiences" over the course of the year.