The word “cloud” gets misused greatly today in the software industry, to the point where most people don’t really know what it means. I blame that on that fact that a lot of people in a lot of marketing departments started using it liberally to mean whatever they were shilling. For the average consumer, “cloud” does have some tangible meaning if we’re going to talk about online storage –¬†either SkyDrive, DropBox or any of their competitors.

Windows 8 has a new feature that allows you to expose apps as locations in the file system. The typical scenario is to expose files stored and accessed remotely, via a service, to be seamlessly accessible to the Windows 8 user without any additional effort to synchronize or load them. This is how the default Skydrive application works on Windows 8.

This is the Skydrive screen if I’m trying to open a file:

What’s happening under the hood is that the application with an enabled save or open file picker contract gets activated and navigated to a particular page. This is all done through the declarations tab in the application manifest.

Once activated, the application presents the page that fits in the UI picker that is accessible to the user, from which they will pick a file. In the SkyDrive example, what you see between the two horizontal bars is the custom UI presented via the Open File Picker contract.

The Skydrive app uses conventional tiles, but you can go as crazy as you like. Once the user picks a file and hits open/save, the application initiates the save or load of a file to/from the OS.

The File Picker contracts sample can be found here.

The one thing that I will caution you about is to not throw your sense of Windows 8 design out the window. You want your file picker contract UI to look as smooth and seamless as that SkyDrive implementation.

I will be speaking at the MCT Summit in Redmond next week, and if you have attended any of my talks you know that I have a strong opinion on the architectural patterns that should be used with WinJS. There will be a blog post coming after the summit that will address that area.