For The iCloud Disaffected, Microsoft Offers iPhone Users Skydrive Storage

When Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) launched its iCloud service earlier this year, it automatically gave users of its own devices 5GB of free cloud-based storage for files. Now Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has pulled a Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and one-upped Apple with its new SkyDrive app for iPhone, which gives users 25GB of free storage when they sign up for the service.

Microsoft launched a mobile-browser version of the service back in June 2011, so this is not the first time Skydrive is appearing on iOS. But as with other apps the native version promises a smoother experience for the iPhone user; a native app for iPad has yet to be released, although you can see from the user reviews for the app so far that this is clearly something some consumers would like to have, too.

The move of offering free storage that exceeds that of Apple in iCloud is reminiscent of when Gmail web-based email first launched as a beta from Google in 2004 and offered users a free storage allowance of 1GB, at a time when Hotmail from Microsoft put caps for individual emails and only allowed for a measly 2MB of overall storage for users of its free service. (Both are much higher now.)

Important to note that when Apple offers 5GB of storage, it doesn’t count purchased music, apps, books, and TV shows, and Photo Stream towards that limit. The larger Camera Roll does, as do other music or other media you may have on your device. “You’ll find that 5GB goes a long way,” Apple notes in its iCloud description page.

Skydrive lets users store files remotely, letting users access them as if they were on the device itself, including videos. Unlike iCloud, on the iPhone the syncrhonizing is not automatic, but relies on users to upload files themselves. The size limit for each individual file is 100MB so that could make this more about storing photographs and documents than long videos. Users can share links to files in the drive and give those users different levels of permissions.

While the service seems at least in part about giving existing SkyDrive users the ability to access their files even if they are on an iPhone, the offer of 25GB to new users points to how Microsoft hopes to win more customers on to its platfortms. It an interesting move by Microsoft to look for more connections in to users in the mobile space at a time when it is not exactly winning in the platform wars. Figures from Gartner for Q3 noted that its platform share was around 1.6 percent of devices sold in that quarter.

Ironically, it was only last night that Apple contacted me by email to alert me that I was approaching my 5GB limit on its drive service, offering me the option to pay for more space. I might just give Skydrive a test drive, and I might not be the only one.