November 3, 2015 Last Updated 11:36 am

Microsoft shocked to discover customers thought their offer of unlimited storage was serious

Lured by free, consumers and businesses alike often discover the deal being offered too good to be true, then find themselves in a tough situation

The offer was clear enough: Office 365 subscribers would all be upgraded to unlimited OneDrive storage. It was an offer too good to be true. And so it was.

“Today, storage limits just became a thing of the past with Office 365. Moving forward, all Office 365 customers will get unlimited OneDrive storage at no additional cost,” Chris Jones, corporate vice president, OneDrive & SharePoint at Microsoft announced last fall.

OfficeUNLIMITED-410Yesterday, though, in an unsigned blog post, the company announced “We’re making changes to OneDrive storage plans for consumers…”

According to Microsoft, the company was shocked to find that some customers took them seriously about the offer and began archiving their DVDs and music through the service.

My goodness, who would have guessed that would happen?

Since we started to roll out unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 consumer subscribers, a small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75 TB per user or 14,000 times the average. Instead of focusing on extreme backup scenarios, we want to remain focused on delivering high-value productivity and collaboration experiences that benefit the majority of OneDrive users.

Many consumers already have learned the lesson that many Microsoft customers are learning: don’t trust either “free” or “unlimited” when it comes to what the big tech companies want to offer you. I would suggest that “secure” and “reliable” also be banned terms, as Google fiber customers in Kansas City learned during the World Series.

Microsoft, which played up the storage offer, is now saying they were mistaken.

“OneDrive has always been designed to be more than basic file storage and backup,” the company said yesterday.

The whole issue of cloud storage is a thorny one on the consumer side of things. But on the business side, companies are well aware that they will have to rely on their storage partners, and because they pay they feel it is a two-way street: they don’t expect things for free, but they demand performance.

This, though, has not been true with publishers and their digital publishing vendors. Publishers continue to be attracted to “free” and often go into arrangements for apps and digital editions that they would not, in a million years, go into on the print side. In order to prove their digital-first chops, they often outsource much of the work, all of the costs, and most of the rewards. The result: poor digital editions that, in their minds, only reinforce the superiority of print.

No surprise, then, to see a number of publishers begin to reevaluate the whole digital edition and app building process. Some are giving up, others beginning to build their own capabilities.

Those investing in digital are taking one of two approaches (and sometimes both): buying digital content, or building up technical expertise.

The first approach, such as acquiring a website with good traffic numbers, instantly adds digital advertising real estate. But it rarely does much to equip the company to launch its own new digital properties. The second approach enables a company to build its own apps, digital editions, and other digital publishing products.

Obviously, the combination of the two – acquiring digital content that also comes with digital publishing technology – is most desired.

In print publishing, publishers long ago struck a balance between the skills and technology they believed were best employed internally, and the skills and technology which was best left to their vendors. Int he newspaper business, much of the print technology is internal; in magazines printing and some prepress work is best done by the vendor. In both businesses, most of the design work is thought best to be done internally, even if there might be some centralization of the production process.

Why some publishers believe it might work differently in the world of digital publishing is something I have always found strange. When asked about my own recommendations for publishers I usually responding by asking them one simple question: are you or are you not a digital publisher? Most say Yes, in which case I respond then, act as you believe a digital publisher would act.

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