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With iOS app update, Microsoft wants SkyDrive to displace "camera roll" tools

Microsoft has sharpened the photo management capabilities of its SkyDrive app for iOS, a step intended to make the cloud storage product the de facto "camera roll" tool across users' multiple devices.

Microsoft also envisions SkyDrive acting as a bridge for transferring to Windows devices the photos and videos people have taken with and store on iPads and iPhones.

"One of the most popular features on Windows Phone is the ability to automatically upload the photos and videos you capture to SkyDrive. With the new SkyDrive app for iOS, we're bringing that same capability to those of you who use iPhones and iPads," wrote Microsoft official Ryan Hoge in a blog post on Thursday.

This new camera-backup feature is included in the latest version of SkyDrive's iOS app, available now for free download. The first version of the SkyDrive app for iOS came out almost two years ago.

The feature will also make it easier for people to transfer photos and videos from their iOS devices over to Windows PCs and tablets, as well as determine whether uploads are made via Wi-Fi or data networks, according to Hoge.

Of course, people have many other options for cloud storage services, including Apple's own iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox and others, so it remains to be seen whether this enhancement will attract users from competing products to SkyDrive.

The SkyDrive app now also provides controls for uploading the files at different resolutions and sizes, as well as for managing which photos and videos are kept locally on the iOS devices.

"In time, you might find that you're actually using the SkyDrive app as your camera roll, given that it will have all of your photos, regardless of the device you captured them on," Hoge wrote.

In addition the SkyDrive iOS app now works better with Microsoft's Office Mobile productivity software suite for iPhones and with OneNote for iOS. Specifically, Office Mobile users can now open SkyDrive files directly in the suite's applications or in OneNote. Previously, the files would open in the company's Quicklook viewer.

"After you make edits, you can save your changes back to SkyDrive. This means you get a more seamless editing experience, no matter where you choose to open the file," Hoge wrote.

Microsoft also announced tighter integration between SkyDrive's web app -- SkyDrive.com -- and Facebook, giving users to option to put SkyDrive photos in an existing Facebook album or in a new one. "If the latter, you can name and set the permissions for the folder all from within SkyDrive before sharing to Facebook," Hoge wrote.

Microsoft has struggled with its strategy to port its apps for iOS, acting sometimes reluctantly and timidly in the eyes of some critics. iOS and the Apple devices it powers have crushed Microsoft's Windows Phone OS smartphones and Windows tablets.

Thus, some believe Microsoft has refrained from porting its products to the Apple mobile platform because it doesn't want to add to its appeal. In particular, the company has been criticized for not having a full-featured, native version of Office for iPads, but Microsoft officials have acknowledged they're working on it.

However, Microsoft has ported some of its products to iOS, including the above-mentioned SkyDrive as well as OneNote, Lync and SharePoint.

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