Question on Microsoft’s Ability to Deliver What They Promise

A little over a year ago, Microsoft proclaimed that paid Office 365 Home and Personal subscribers would get, as part of their subscription, unlimited cloud storage on its One Drive service. Yesterday, the company announced that it wasn’t going to do that after all. It turns out that if you offer unlimited storage to people, a few of them actually take you at your word and trust that you are truly offering unlimited storage, and then they start using it.

Explaining the backtracking, the new blog post complains that a small number of paying customers were using One Drive to store backups of multiple PCs and large collections of movies and TV shows. Some of these outliers used more than 75TB of space, which Microsoft says is 14,000 times the average (putting the average One Drive user at about 5.5GB).

Instead, paid users will now receive only 1TB of storage, a reversion to the service’s previous limit. The company is also removing its old 100GB and 200GB paid plans, replacing them with a 50GB plan at $1.99 a month. Free One Drive storage is also being cut early next year, from 15GB to 5GB, and there’s no more 15GB bonus for storing your camera roll in One Drive. Going forward, One Drive users with more than 1TB of data will have a one year grace period during which they can keep their large storage, after which they must cut back to below 1TB. Similarly, free users with more than 5GB of data will have a year after the change is made to reduce their usage to below the 5GB level. Paying users not happy at the reduction in storage will be offered pro-rated refunds.

Although this was announced yesterday, we have had occasional reports over the last few months from paying Office 365 subscribers telling us that their One Drive accounts were capped at 1TB. According to these users, customer service reps were telling them there was no unlimited storage and that 1TB was the limit. As such, it looks as if this change may have been in effect for some time prior to the decision to go public

The company has made vague promises to produce an updated One Drive client that improves the sync experience, but as things stand right now, using One Drive in Windows 10 is markedly worse than using it in Windows 8.1. Dropping the unlimited storage similarly makes it worse. And killing off the camera roll extension means that one of the most widely applicable paths into using One Drive for one’s cloud storage needs is gone. Does Microsoft even want us to use One Drive anymore?

If it were any other service, we’d almost feel suspicious that the poor management and reduction in capabilities were precursors to winding the entire thing up. One Drive is too important to Windows and Office 365 for that to be in the cards, but it nonetheless makes us wonder why this core service appears to be getting worse and why the company is willing to undermine the trust people had in the service by changing the terms of its service in a way that has no benefits, only downsides. This doesn’t just reflect badly on OneDrive. It reflects badly on Microsoft’s entire position as a provider of cloud services: it calls into question Microsoft’s ability to deliver what it said it would deliver.