Microsoft free space is fine, but what's the cost?

Microsoft has finally rolled out its online storage service in Australia, but it's definitely worth reading the fine print before you sign up.

Microsoft has finally rolled out its online storage service in Australia, but it's definitely worth reading the fine print before you sign up.

After a testing period stretching back over a year, Windows Live SkyDrive -- free online storage based around your Hotmail account -- was quietly launched across the globe last week.

While generally the vast majority of Live services don't hit Australia until months or years after their US release, SkyDrive is a rare exception, rolling out in Australia at the same time as 37 other regions.

"I'm thrilled to say Microsoft has announced the launch of Windows Live SkyDrive in Australia, offering you 5GB of online storage," the company's local e-mail newsletter proclaimed.

While it's nice to be near the front of the queue for once, even if it's for what is essentially a cheap clone of YouSendIt, there are a few reasons to be suspicious.

The first is some apparent technical limitations. "Please don't close the window or navigate away from this page," SkyDrive's upload page warns.

In practice, this doesn't actually matter -- I navigated away on several occasions and uploaded files just fine -- but doesn't Microsoft realise we're living in a post-Ajax era?

A bigger concern is the fine print in the terms and conditions for the service. I can live with all the blather about potential costs, given that the same conditions apply to every Live service, and even Microsoft must realise that charging for stuff others offer for free is a quick path to no market share.

But there's some other conditions that, to be honest, suck. Here's one: "By posting or otherwise providing your submission, you are granting to the public free permission to use, copy, distribute, display, publish and modify your submission, each in connection with the service."

OK, if you don't make your submission available to Tom, e-Dick and Harry, that doesn't entirely apply. But it still seems like a major cop-out.

A final, and perhaps uber-disturbing fact, is that any Australian signing up for the service is doing so under the laws of Singapore, rather than Australia. Bear in mind this is a country where chewing gum is illegal and the Internet remains tightly controlled. Personally, I wouldn't be taking the risk.