Two Tech Giants Reach for the Cloud

The race to the cloud is heating up, and the last week has seen some pretty big cloud-related news from two of the largest technology companies in the world.

Microsoft SkyDrive
Like other major names in the tech industry, Microsoft has moved to the cloud with SkyDrive, an online storage service that is the meat of its cloud computing services (think: Amazon Web Services). Just yesterday, Microsoft rolled out some impressive new apps for SkyDrive that may prove to be a breakthrough moment for the company, at least in the cloud.

Perhaps the biggest revelation was desktop integration with Windows and Mac (although only the OS X Lion version).

In a move that is highly reminiscent of Dropbox, users will be able to access and save files in SkyDrive as if it were just any other folder on their computers, and everything they put in there will be automatically backed up in the cloud, safe and sound, as well as synced to other computers with access to the account.

A new preview application will allow Windows users to access, browse and stream files using a remote PC.

Microsoft also updated its mobile apps for iOS and Windows Phones, as well as launching a SkyDrive iPad application.

One major downside to this update is that the company is drastically reducing the amount of free storage it offers, from 25 GB to a paltry 7 GB. But maybe it's not that bad, as Microsoft claims that less than 0.1 percent of current SkyDrive users actually use more than 7 GB. Plus, current customers who are using over 4 GB of storage will be upgraded to 25 GB for free, and new users will obviously be able to buy more storage, with a starting package that runs just $10 a year for 20 GB.

Google Drive
Google has also announced Google Drive, the company's first major attempt to bring its brand into the cloud.

After a long period of speculation, Google finally came clean with its announcement of Drive, which will work pretty much like SkyDrive, AWS and most other cloud services.

Users will be able to create, share, collaborate on and, of course, store all kinds of content in Drive, including photos, videos, documents, PDFs and more. This content will be available from basically anywhere, as Drive can be installed on both Macs and PCs, along with an app for Android mobile devices; the iOS version is in development.

Google has built Google Docs right into Drive to make it easy for users to create and work with others in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. All shared content will allow users to add and reply to comments on anything (including image or video files), and Drive will notify them when other users comment on shared items.

And, no surprise, Google built in some handy search features, allowing users to search for keywords and filter results by file type, owner and other considerations. The service will even be able to recognize text in scanned documents with Opitical Character Recognition technology.

Drive is another component of Google's attempts to create a seamless experience for users across all facets of the Web, and it integrates nicely into other Google properties like Google+ and Gmail. It will also work with third-party applications for faxing documents, editing videos and more. These apps can be installed in the Chrome Web Store, with more additions on the way.

To start, users will get 5 GB of free storage. From there, they can upgrade to 25 GB for $2.49 a month, 100 GB for $4.99 a month or 1 TB for $49.99 a month. Paid accounts will also automatically expand a user's Gmail storage to 25 GB.