OneDrive roadmap reveals offline mobile viewing and 'next-gen' desktop sync

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OneDrive may be one of the cheapest cloud storage services, but it’s not necessarily the most convenient.

That’s something Microsoft is looking to change in 2015. Thanks to a roadmap that Microsoft showed at this week’s Ignite conference, we know exactly which features the company is working on, and when they’ll likely arrive.

As Neowin notes, the focus is mainly on making files easier to access and share. For instance, Microsoft is adding read-only offline file access for iOS and Android in the third quarter. OneDrive’s universal Windows 10 app will also have this feature when it launches in the fourth quarter. Microsoft plans to support offline editing and folder sync for its mobile apps in the future, but doesn’t have a timeline yet.

Microsoft also revealed a “next-gen sync client” for PC and Mac, launching as a preview in Q3, and with general availability in Q4. Microsoft has previously said that it’s working on a desktop sync overhaul that lets users view their cloud contents without having to store them locally. While this is already possible with “placeholders” in Windows 8.1, Microsoft removed the feature in Windows 10, citing reliability issues and a confusing interface. It sounds like the improved version won’t be fully-baked in time for Windows 10’s summer launch. The new version, Microsoft said, will also allow users to selectively sync which folders they wish to or do not wish to back up online.

Other features on the way include way to send OneDrive links in Outlook Mobile (Q2), company-shareable links (Q3), and PDF annotation support in iOS and Android (no timeline). A universal OneDrive app for Windows 10 is also in the works. 

Microsoft has already released a feature for Office 2016 that allows consumers and businesses to share Office documents via OneDrive, as opposed to emailing a standalone copy. Microsoft said it will also add a button to quickly revoke all sharing privileges. And for businesses that use OneDrive—known as OneDrive for Business—the look and feel of OneDrive’s business Web client  will become more consistent with the consumer version, Microsoft said.

Why this matters: At just $70 per year for unlimited storage, OneDrive is nearly the cheapest cloud storage you can get. (It’s undercut only by Amazon, whose sync tools aren’t nearly as robust.) Still, it’s behind rivals Dropbox and Google Drive on certain features such as offline file access on mobile devices. While lower prices help get people in the door, bridging the feature gap and improving desktop sync should make it easier to stick with the service for the long-haul.

Updated at 11:54 AM on May 8 with more details from Microsoft on OneDrive for Business and the upcoming selective sync feature. 

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