Opinion: Microsoft’s Photos fragmentation is driving me mad

Microsoft is still struggling to make a good service for photo backups. I use OneDrive every day, and I really love how easy it is to back things up there for the most part. Backing up photos to design assets and documents is very easy on OneDrive, but it’s lacking a lot for the regular consumer.

At the moment of writing this article, Redmond has three different apps for photos: Microsoft Photos (in Windows 10), OneDrive Photos, and Outlook Photos (coming soon). Microsoft Photos is a minimalistic gallery app that works perfectly fine, and it also integrates with OneDrive — letting you view pictures stored on OneDrive. But Microsoft doesn’t let you upload pictures to OneDrive from the app, and it also doesn’t support intelligent search.

OneDrive uses artificial intelligence to automatically “tag” photos so that they are easily searchable but when you add those OneDrive photos to the Microsoft Photos app, none of those data is available. In a future version of the Microsoft Photos app in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Redmond is adding intelligent search features to the app. The app will now locally index all of your photos, and tag them to make them searchable — but there is a big flaw.

All of the indexing is happening locally. This process takes up a lot of resources, and it also won’t work when you have the app closed. But more importantly, Microsoft is reindexing the photos that are being pulled from OneDrive, too. That means if you have years of photos stored on OneDrive, Microsoft Photos will index every single one of them once again even if OneDrive has already indexed them. Yes.

To make things worse, Microsoft is currently “testing” a new name for the Microsoft Photos app in Windows 10. The company could be renaming it to Story Remix, which makes no sense for a gallery app. Windows Story Remix should be a completely separate app that can integrate with the Microsoft Photos to bring in your photos and videos — but it simply doesn’t make any sense to rename the Microsoft Photos to Story Remix. It just creates a lot more confusion.

As I complained earlier this month, Microsoft is also building a Photos hub into the new Outlook. The new Outlook Photos app doesn’t include any search feature, and there’s no way of easily finding a photo unless you know the exact topic of an email or the sender. That app is still in beta, so Microsoft will hopefully address this before it’s publicly rolled out.

Now let’s talk about some competition: My favourite Google service is Google Photos. It’s literally the best way of backing up photos and videos without spending a lot, and the service’s intelligent search features make it really easy to find the exact photo you might be looking for. It’s also available on the web, Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone. It’s built on the cloud, it’s fast, and it just works. Literally. Microsoft, on the other hand, doesn’t have anything to compete with Google Photos to date.

The thing is, all of Microsoft’s photos apps are flawed. I want to use a single app that lets me backup photos, search them without needing to reindex all the photos whenever I get a new device. This app also needs to be available across my Windows 10 devices, my Android phone, and my iPhone — just like Google Photos. What really makes me angry about this situation is that Microsoft knows how to fix this, but it’s instead taking uninspired decisions that are going to leave many users frustrated.

Microsoft — please fix this.

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