Microsoft Offers Consumers Free “Unlimited” Storage with Office 365 Subscription

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and its cloud-minded CEO Satya Nadella made a daring play on Monday announcing that Microsoft would become the first major internet services firm to offer an unlimited storage bucket to its cloud subscribers.
The new unlimited option will be slowly applied “over the coming months” to the OneDrive accounts of Office 365 subscribers.  The new perk will apply to all Office 365 subscribers including Home, Personal, and even University customers.
The announcement is sure to send shockwaves through the world of paid storage.  Companies like Dropbox have made decent profits from subscription services (Dropbox recently boosted its storage allotment to 1 TB for $9.99 USD per month).

What makes Microsoft’s plan different is you get Office 365 along with your storage bucket, and consumers will be eligible for unlimited buckets.  Microsoft may be the first to offer consumers this mind-boggling perk, but we’ll have to wait to see how quickly it rolls out its features.
Exactly how much damage Microsoft’s plan does remains to be seen at this point.  First, it’s unclear exactly when the free-for-all will reach its full fruition.  Microsoft is encouraging interested users to sign up for early access, but it hasn’t committed to hard deadlines for the rollout.
Second, the program doesn’t apply to all SKUs — not yet at least.  Notably, while it does apply to the discounted “University” SKU, a paid SKU for college students, it does not appear to apply to the ProPLUS SKU — the free version of Office 365 that’s offered to students.  Second, the Office 365 Business SKU — the enterprise edition of the cloud suite — won’t receive the free loving till sometime next year.  Microsoft writes:

For OneDrive for Business customers, unlimited storage will be listed on the Office 365 roadmap in the coming days and we will begin updating the First Release customers in 2015, aligned with our promise to provide ample notification for significant service changes.
(And of course Microsoft could always be a show spoiler and add some stipulations of its own, making that free data less accessible).

Those disclaimers buy a bit of time for the likes of Dropbox, Apple, Inc. (AAPL), Google, Inc. (GOOG).  Here’s a look at their latest rates, with Microsoft’s upcoming rate listed for comparison.  Note that Google and Dropbox have already offered “unlimited” plans, but thus far have only offered them to enterprise users, and with some strict stipulations.

  • Microsoft OneDrive
    • Free Option: 15 GB + more for referrals
    • Per user/Per month (paid tiers) [source]:
    • 100 GB ($1.99 USD)
    • 200 GB ($3.99/ USD)
    • Premium tier
      • $6.99 USD/user/month (or $69 USD once per year)
      • 1 TB (will soon be unlimited)
      • Comes with Office 365
  • Dropbox
    • Free Option: 2 GB + more for referrals
    • Per user/Per month (paid tiers) [source]
      • 1 TB ($10 USD/month or $99 USD/year)
    • “Unlimited”: only available to corporate accounts with 5+ users
      • $15 USD per user ($75 USD/month minimum)
      • “As much space as needed”
      • Not available to individual consumer buyers
  • Google Drive
    • Free option: 15 GB for everyone
    • Per user/Per month (paid tiers) [source]:
      • 100 GB ($1.99 USD)
      • 1 TB ($9.99 USD)
      • 10 TB ($99.99 USD)
      • 20 TB ($199.99 USD)
      • 30 TB ($299.99 USD)
    • “Unlimited” for $10 USD/person/month
      • But not really… fine print: “Accounts with fewer than 5 users get 1TB of storage/user”
      • So it’s realy 5 TB for $10 USD/person 
  • Apple iCloud (U.S.)
    • Free option: 5 GB
    • Per user/Per month (paid tiers)  [support]
      • 20 GB ($0.99 USD)
      • 200 GB ($3.99 USD)
      • 500 GB (“$9.99 USD”)
      • 1 TB (“$19.99 USD”)

Even in a post OneDrive “unlimited” world, there’s still plenty of room for enterprising services with novel storage premises, such as Kim Dotcom’s ultra-secure “Mega”.  

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is all about the cloud. [Image Source: VentureBeat]
Microsoft ended its fiscal Q1 2015 (calendar Q3 2014) with 7 million paid Office 365 subscribers — up roughly 1.5 million people from a quarter prior.  With the price drop to $6.99 USD/month (for everyone) and with the upcoming data giveaway, expect that number to soar substantially in coming months.  As Microsoft says — “yay cloud”.