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Microsoft on Friday quietly took the wraps off a free online storage service that it says is the final piece of its Windows Live Internet services portfolio.
Windows Live SkyDrive offers users up to 5 GB of free storage in password-protected servers. Users can also create folders accessible to friends, colleagues, or the general public. They can access their folders from any computer connected to the Internet by signing on to their Windows Live account.
SkyDrive had been undergoing testing for the past several months, Microsoft said.
Windows Live now offers a range of online services in addition to SkyDrive, including tools for e-mail, blogging, instant messaging, and social networking.
The effort is part of Microsoft's attempt to keep pace with Google and acquisition target Yahoo in the growing Web services market.
Google recently launched its Google Apps service -- a suite of hosted products that includes a word processor and a spreadsheet, as well as e-mail and calendaring tools. Yahoo also offers free e-mail and messaging services and an online storage depot called Briefcase that offers up to 25 MB of free space.
Microsoft has offered to purchase Yahoo for about $41 billion. Yahoo's board has thus far rejected the overture.
Windows Live also reflects Microsoft's recognition that many of the software products that are today sold in boxes on store shelves are migrating to the Web. As a result, the company needs to figure out how to enhance its Web offerings without undercutting sales of its packaged applications, from which it derives the bulk of its revenue.