December 16, 2011, 8:00 AM — How many apps has Microsoft released into Apple’s App Store, to be used on iPhones and iPads? The easiest guess is “Zero, because why would they want to help people using the competition?” But the correct answer is actually “At least 14, with more in the works, because Microsoft is moving toward a different stance on ‘competition.’”
Most of Microsoft’s apps (which you can view if you have iTunes) are windows into a service the company provides: Bing for iPad, My XBOX Live, MSN entertainment apps, and the like. The odd app out is Photosynth, which is just a really neat app that makes shooting and compiling multi-shot panoramas super simple, with very light, almost non-existent Microsoft branding.
And then there’s SkyDrive, released this week. It gives iPhone and iPad users access to the bold 25 GB of free storage offered by what Microsoft officially named as Windows Live SkyDrive (the naming of which is this whole other thing I shouldn’t get started on again). It’s a dedicated iOS app that gives SkyDrive users folder-and-file-style access to everything they’ve stashed in their cloud storage. Apple’s own iCloud service is more tightly integrated, but it’s a different kind of cloud service, with switches for choosing entire aspects of each Apple device you back up: contacts, photos, app-specific documents, and so on. Other services, like Dropbox and SugarSync have been on iOS for much longer and have the built-in text editors, file management tools, and other deep integration tricks to show for it. But let’s presume that SkyDrive will improve in semi-short order, and that accessing your dozen thumb drives in the cloud will become easier and nicer.