Microsoft launches new OneDrive for Business sync client, developer kit

Mobile apps for the storage service also received an update

OneDrive for Business entered the next stage of its evolution on Wednesday when Microsoft launched a series of updates that are aimed at improving its cloud storage and productivity service for businesses and other large organizations. 

First and most importantly, the company launched its next-generation OneDrive for Business sync client Wednesday, which should bring increased speed and reliability to the experience of using Microsoft's enterprise cloud storage on a computer. It's also compatible with Windows 7, 8.1 and 10, along with Mac OS versions 10.9 and later. The latter is a major shift for OneDrive for Business, which previously only offered a sync client on Windows. 

With the release of this sync client, OneDrive for Business is now using the same syncing code that powers the consumer version of OneDrive. It's supposed to be faster and more reliable, in addition to including new features like the ability to selectively sync only certain files and folders from Microsoft's cloud onto a local device.

That's good news in terms of the product's present capabilities along with its capacity for future updates, since improvements to Microsoft's consumer storage product can filter out to business users. Unfortunately, it also means that some organizations will have to hold off on deploying it, or use it alongside the existing old sync client -- both things that Microsoft supports at the moment.

That's because the new client doesn't support some of the features that are built into the old one, most notably syncing with SharePoint and OneDrive for Business at the same time.

In addition, people who want to use OneDrive for Business to enable real-time collaboration on documents in the Word 2016 client app will have to open any document they collaborate on in either the applications File > Open menu or through the OneDrive for Business web interface. Double-clicking on a file from OneDrive for Business inside the Windows File Explorer won't allow users to work on it with other people in real time. 

People who use Microsoft's iOS apps also have some new features to look forward to. OneDrive for iOS will support offline storage by the end of this year for use with both Microsoft's consumer and business storage services, following the company's launch of that feature on Android earlier in 2015. 

Office Lens for iOS users will now be able to save scanned files directly to OneDrive for Business from inside the app, with that capability coming to Android and Windows 10 Mobile in the first quarter of 2016. 

Finally, developers also got some love with the new OneDrive for Business API. It allows third-party apps to programmatically get access to OneDrive for Business files and do things like import files into the service, or export them out of it. 

The product improvements are a spot of good news for users, coming on the same day that Microsoft revealed that it would only offer unlimited cloud file storage to organizations with a premium Office 365 subscription -- reneging on a promise it made last year. 

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Blair Hanley Frank

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