We talked about Microsoft’s SkyBox cloud-based data service recently, and now it looks like the wraps have begun to come off SkyBox, and an initial website has gone live. But, strangely, it isn’t quite what it seemed like it would be.
For starters, the service is now branded “My Phone,” following Microsoft’s Windows system-folder titling meme, and it seems totally dedicated to serving mobile users. It lets a cellphone owner back-up phone information to the cloud site, including contacts, calendars, photos, and other data files–assuming the cellphone runs Windows Mobile 6+.
Its Web portal will work pretty much as suspected: It’s a cloud-server for managing your contacts and calendar events–updating either online or in the phone will align the databases in the service and the phone. But this only appears to work when the phone is connected and synced to “My Phone” wirelessly or physically via a PC or network: There’s no push service, or so it seems from Microsoft’s description that “the changes will appear on your phone the next time that you sync.” Similarly automated backups can be scheduled anytime, with a default of between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., assuming the phone is within range of a network.
Photos uploaded to the “My Phone” portal can be viewed online in a gallery, which can be shared.
There’s also a data limit for the free service: it’s a tiny 200MB. The “free” text suggests that there’ll be a higher storage capacity for paying customers, but there’s no information on that yet.
And if your cellphone is already connected to share with a Microsoft Exchange server, then contacts, calendars and tasks will not sync with My Phone. That’s a tacit confirmation of the “SkyLine” service for corporate customers, whose devices are commonly updated over the Exchange Server grid.
We’ll have to wait and see what extra features the full service roll-out brings, including whether there will be pay-only upgrades, before passing final judgment. But all in all, “My Phone” seems to be a pale ghost of Apple’s MobileMe. The Apple product incorporates a degree of push notification of calendar and contact changes, has a larger storage capacity via the iDisk of 20GB (though the entire service requires paid subscription, and there’s no free storage,) has no distinction between corporate and private users, and integrates with both computers and smartphones.