Windows Live Gets Into Storage, Photos

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Microsoft has unveiled more components of its “software plus services” business model, aimed not only at supplying the software people use for their everyday computing and media needs, but also providing the ongoing data services to support those needs. The latest additions to Microsoft’s Windows Live lineup are Windows Live Folders and Windows Live Photos.

Windows Live Folders enables users to store up to 500 MB of data online, so users can easily share documents and other data with each other. For the time being, Microsoft is not envisioning Live Folders as a way for users to manage online backups of key documents and information, but wouldn’t rule that out in the future: the company plans to monitor usage and possibly increase the available per-user storage capacity.

Windows Live Photo Gallery is a revamp of the photo sharing application included in Windows XP and Vista, and simplifies how users can share photos via Windows Live Spaces.

Both Live Photos and Live Folders are “managed” beta releases limited initial availability. For the time being, Live Folders is available only in the United States, while Live Photos is available in the U.S., China, France, Germany, the UK, India, Japan, and Spain.

Microsoft’s Chris Jones, corporate VP of Windows Live Experience Program Management, says the company’s next step will be to integrate the disparate Winodws Live offerings into a single installer and experience. “Soon we’ll begin to offer a single installer which will give customers the option of an all-in-one download for the full Windows Live suite of services instead of the separate installation experience you see today,” said Jones in a statement. “It’s going to be an exciting area to watch, and there’s a lot more to come.”

The expansion of Windows Live services—as well as integration into a single offering—is also part of Microsoft’s strategy to compete with online offerings from Google, which offers online versions of basic productivity applications as well as well-regarded email and (of course) search services. Google has been rumored to be working on an online storage service for some time, but has not made any specific announcements.