I spent last night configuring a new Windows 8.1 device – finally retired my venerable HP laptop. One thing that struck me as I was working through the various installs was where my data was. The last time I’d configured a new machine all of the data was held locally and I’d needed to copy the data onto the new machine. A cross over cable was used if I remember correctly.
This time the majority of my data is on my SkyDrive. Logging into Windows 8.1 with a Microsoft Live id means I get immediate access to SkyDrive content. SkyDrive is an integral part of Windows 8.1 rather than being an additional install.
The SkyDrive appeared. The configuration is good in that you can move the SkyDrive position on your local disk – open up the Location tab on the SkyDrive properties.
What did surprise me and start me thinking is that by default under Windows 8.1 SkyDrive data is not automatically downloaded to your local disk. You get a stub file that when you click on it triggers the download of the contents. In previous versions as soon as you configured the SkyDrive app on your local machine it would start analysing your data and download.
Its easy enough to trigger a download for everything, or just some folders – right click the appropriate folder with your SkyDrive area on the local disk and select Make available off-line.
This started me thinking – with SkyDrive defaulting to online content and Microsoft Office being able to save to SkyDrive – how long before all of our data is in the cloud. I wouldn’t be surprised to see future machines with much smaller disks than we assume are necessary today – enough to store the OS and applications. Though with web based Office applications available through Office 365 there could be a lot of people who only need a thin OS – sort of like a chrome book but that actually usable.
The only data you will store locally will be those files you are working on.
This change will require much better network support than we receive today. The broadband offerings in the UK are not up to supporting this approach and until there is consistent, fast broad band connectivity everywhere it will remain a pipe dream.