Microsoft to launch mobile storage service

Microsoft is to launch a service that will allow Windows Mobile users to synchronise information between their phone and the web.

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Microsoft is to launch a service that will allow Windows Mobile users to synchronise information between their phone and the web.

The service, called My Phone, will provide a place to store data such as photos, videos, text messages and calendar items. Users will then be able to share that data with others or use the service as a way to back up information on their phone.

A description of My Phone appeared last week at a Microsoft web page, Getskybox, but Microsoft pulled the site after several blogs wrote stories about it.

Getskybox now redirects to a new URL that has much of the same description.

Getskybox went live earlier than planned, and Microsoft will offer more details about My Phone at next week's Mobile World Congress trade show, said a Microsoft spokesman. The service will be available at that time as a limited, invitation-only beta, he said.

Microsoft already has a service that does something similar to My Phone. Live Mesh lets people upload photos and other information to a web page and access the data from a mobile phone.

But My Phone may be different because it will automatically synch a wide array of information from phones. In addition, while anyone with a phone and a browser can use Live Mesh, My Phone will be limited to people using phones with Windows Mobile 6.

According to the information now posted to the site, users of My Phone will be able to back up contacts, calendar appointments, text messages, photos and other information online; share those photos with others; update the information from a computer using a Web-based interface; and use the stored data to restore a phone transfer it to a new device.

Microsoft said it would give each user 200MB of storage space, but warned that only phones powered by Windows Mobile 6 or later would be compatible with the service. In fact, it hedged: "Most phones that run the Windows Mobile 6 operating system are compatible with My Phone service," said the service's site.

Although not strictly billed as a phone-to-PC sync service, My Phone will synchronise Windows Live contacts -- assuming Windows Live has been installed on the phone -- with those on the Windows Live Web site. However, My Phone will not sync contacts, e-mail messages or to-do tasks with an Exchange mail server. Phone data will be backed up to the remote servers automatically once per day, said Microsoft, although users can manually trigger a backup at any time.

My Phone is a potential competitor to Apple Inc.'s MobileMe , which debuted last July but got off to a very rocky start . MobileMe, however, costs $99 annually, while My Phone will be free, said Microsoft.

MobileMe offers considerably more storage space -- 20GB -- and synchronises e-mail, contact, and tasks between not only Apple's iPhone and a PC or Mac, but also between multiple computers.