Microsoft apologizes for riling OneDrive users, restores some free storage space on request

But doesn't budge on decision to scratch unlimited storage for consumers; 'We made a business decision,' company now says

Microsoft on Friday apologized for how it conveyed last month's decision to slash OneDrive storage allotments, and restored the 15GB of free cloud storage space to current users who asked for it. But it did not back down from its determination to eliminate the unlimited allowance.

"We are all genuinely sorry for the frustration this decision has caused and for the way it was communicated," wrote Douglas Pearce, a group program manager for OneDrive, in a message that shut down a massive plea on Microsoft's own website for the restoration of the allotments.

Pearce was referring to an unsigned blog post of Nov. 2 that laid out changes to Microsoft's consumer cloud storage service. In that post, Microsoft said it would dump unlimited storage for subscribers to its Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal plans, setting the new limit at 1TB; slash the free allowance from 15GB to 5GB, reducing it by 67%; drop two paid plans; and add a new one that effectively raised the price of the lowest-cost option by 100%.

Not surprisingly, OneDrive users and Office 365 customers howled. They scoffed at Microsoft's rationale for the elimination of unlimited storage -- the company cited a small number of file repository hogs -- and demanded that the firm restore the 15GB of free space.

"I've been using OneDrive since the first days and I feel betrayed," said Diego B on Nov. 3 in comments appended to Microsoft's blog post of the day before.

Beyond the mea culpa, however, Microsoft will not bend on the move to strike OneDrive's unlimited allowance. "Office 365 Home, Personal, and University subscriptions will continue to include 1TB of storage," Pearce said.

He also outlined a limited-time offer that current OneDrive users may request. "For our biggest fans who have been loyal advocates for OneDrive, we are adding a new offer that lets you keep your existing 15GB of free storage when the changes happen next year," Pearce said. "If you also have the 15GB camera roll bonus, you'll be able to keep that as well."

Users must explicitly ask to be grandfathered in by clicking "Keep your free storage" on this website before the end of January 2016.

Those who don't hear of the offer will apparently be out of luck, as Pearce said nothing about reaching out to all OneDrive users via email.

Rather than claiming that the roll-backs were due to a few storage gluttons -- as Microsoft did initially -- Pearce said it was a "business decision" without giving details.

That decision may have been based on Microsoft's revenue calculations. Computerworld last month projected that the Redmond, Wash. company could earn nearly $107 million more each year by moving just 1% of its OneDrive users from the "free" column of the ledger to "paid."

Pearce also apologized only for the way the OneDrive decision was broadcast to customers, not for the reductions themselves. "We realize the announcement came across as blaming customers for using our product. For this, we are truly sorry and would like to apologize to the community," he said. "[But] we are not changing our overall plans."

His message was added to UserVoice, Microsoft's own petition-like website that lets customers suggest changes to the company's products. UserVoice has been an important part of Microsoft's renewed emphasis on feedback and its pivot to constantly-evolving software, although the company has shuttered the one dedicated to Windows 10 in favor of an in-OS feedback app.

With Pearce's post, Microsoft closed the plea to "Give us back our storage." In its five weeks, the thread accumulated more than 4,100 messages -- most of them derogatory or worse -- and the call-to-action had been "voted up" over 72,000 times. Both were huge numbers for the OneDrive UserVoice, and easily outpaced any other request.

Pearce also left unanswered the question of whether commercial customers subscribing to Office 365 will receive unlimited storage space. Currently, the maximum is 1TB -- the same as the new cap on consumer storage -- but Microsoft has pledged in the past to bump that to unlimited for OneDrive for Business.

"Moving forward, all Office 365 customers will get unlimited OneDrive storage at no additional cost," the roadmap states. "In the meantime, get started using your 1TB of storage today by backing up all those work files kicking around on your PC - with the knowledge that even more storage is on its way!"

That promise remained on Microsoft's Office 365 roadmap Saturday.

Previously, Microsoft had declined to answer questions about the future data cap for OneDrive for Business. OneDrive dec 14

OneDrive users who ask will be given the 15GB free allotment they now have; after clicking on a button on Microsoft's website, they will see this message.


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