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The new SkyDrive features added late last week were, apparently, just the tip of the iceberg; today, Microsoft unleashed a new and improved preview version of its cloud-storage service that adds local SkyDrive clients, default Live Mesh-like functionality, the ability to pay for extra storage and more. Heads-up for existing users, though; your SkyDrive allotment could shrink from its current 25GB down to just 7GB if you don't act fast.
The stand-alone SkyDrive for Windows program is now available for Windows 7, 8 and Vista users; a Mac OS X client is also available for people who like to mix apples and oranges. Like Dropbox, SkyDrive will stay synced with Microsoft's servers and consist of a single folder that you can add sub-folders and files to. (Sorry, Live Mesh users; SkyDrive can't -- and won't -- sync arbitrary folders as that service can, though on the plus side, Microsoft hasn't killed Live Mesh off yet.)
Drag-and-drop functionality is enabled for the SkyDrive clients, and its users can use the stand-alone desktop app to add files up to 2GB in size to their SkyDrive. The Web-version and apps currently limit maximum file sizes to 300MB. Users with the desktop clients installed will also be able to use it to remotely access their PCs in case they forgot to plop an important file into the cloud.
Now, for the downside: Microsoft's dropping the amount of free SkyDrive storage down to 7GB. If you signed up for a 25GB SkyDrive prior to April 22, you can keep all those gigs by logging in to your SkyDrive and clicking the "SkyDrive's free storage is changing – claim your free 25GB" link at the top of the page (like I just did). It's a limited time offer, though. If you already had more than 4GB of crap in your SkyDrive, Microsoft upgraded you automatically.
You can (finally) pay for more SkyDrive space now, too. $10/year nets you an extra 20GB, $25/year nets you an extra 50GB, and $50/year will set up with 100GB worth of additional storage. Those prices ain't that shabby.
We'll need to spend some time playing around with the newly improved SkyDrive before we know whether or not it's evolved into a true Dropbox competitor. In the meantime, we recommend reading the Microsoft blog post outlining all the new SkyDrive features in detail.