Microsoft opens My Phone beta to the public

As of May 18, Microsoft's My Phone beta is available to all Windows Mobile users running version 6.X and higher of the operating system.

As of May 18, Microsoft's My Phone beta is available to all Windows Mobile users running version 6.X and higher of the operating system.

Microsoft announced the broadening of the test of its phone-synchronization service via a post to the company's My Phone Engineering blog. Microsoft plans to roll out an upgrade to the My Phone software component over the next few weeks. From the blog post:

"Over the next few weeks, we will be updating the companion software for your phone, at which time you will be prompted to download the updated software. The upgrade process is quick and easy – all your settings and data will be retained -- so we encourage you to upgrade when prompted to do so.  Today’s web site upgrade includes enabling 19 additional languages on the web portal, adding a Video Demo on the welcome page, providing Help content, and making a number of other improvements based on your feedback."

My Phone, the service formerly codenamed Skybox, allows Windows Mobile users to store up to 200 Mb worth of contacts, calendar entries, photos and other information on a server hosted by Microsoft. The first generation of the service is expected to be released in final form this fall, around the time that Windows Mobile 6.5 phones come to market. For now, Microsoft isn't charging for the My Phone service (though it is expected to charge a subscription fee for a premium version of the My Phone service, possibly some time later this year).

While My Phone synchronizes contact and calendar items between Windows Mobile phones and the cloud, there are some interesting caveats listed on Microsoft's Web site, in terms of what the My Phone service won't do, synchronization-wise.

* "If you have an active connection with Microsoft Exchange server (which is frequently used for corporate e-mail), My Phone will not synchronize your contacts, calendar appointments, or tasks. * "If you have Windows Live installed on your phone, it will synchronize your Windows Live contacts with the Windows Live web site, and My Phone will synchronize your other contacts to your account on the My Phone web site. * "If you have an external memory card and selected My Phone's recommended settings, information on the external memory card will not be synchronized. * "If you store contacts on the SIM card provided by your mobile operator, My Phone will not synchronize these contacts. * "If you have any documents stored outside the My Documents folder on your phone, My Phone will not synchronize these documents."

Microsoft officials still have not explained the distinctions between Live Mesh, SkyDrive, Live Sync (FolderShare) and My Phone and why users might opt for each of these synchronization services.