Microsoft is readying a new cloud service called My Phone that enables users of Windows Mobile 6 or later to sync contacts, calendar appointments, photos, and other information with the My Phone web site. According to an Engadget report on Friday, Microsoft will officially launch the service at the Mobile World Congress February 16-19 in Barcelona. At first blush, the service resembles Apple's MobileMe in many respects, but there are some key differences, at least based on how much one can learn from the My Phone FAQ on the official Microsoft My Phone Beta web site.
Not The Same as MobileMe
It's an interesting to note that Microsoft's first question on this site involves using the service as a backup of your phone information. If you lost your phone, you can update your new phone with settings stored on the site. Notice they don't start off by explaining that you can sync your various devices as MobileMe does. In fact, it doesn't appear to provide syncing across devices at all. Its sole purpose is to have a backup in the cloud.
While that does have some utility, it's probably not the main reason people want to have a cloud service for their phone. More likely, they want to use in the fashion that Apple has developed, a way to keep all your devices including your desktop, laptop and iPhone all in sync.
What's more, unless you manually choose to sync your phone with My Phone web site, it only syncs once per day unlike MobileMe which updates your various devices every 15 minutes giving you almost immediate access to your changes on the web, the phone or your desktop applications. Since My Phone is primarily using this as a backup system, I suppose the once per day makes sense unless you were at a conference, added a bunch of new contacts, and then lost your phone. If you missed the day's backup, and didn't think to manually sync, your new information is gone, which makes it a fairly poor backup system.
My Phone is Free
Microsoft will not be charging for this service, while MobileMe costs $99 per year, but as a free service My Phone lacks many of the features you find in MobileMe. To be fair, many users would be using Exchange on a Blackberry or Windows Mobile device as explained in this AppleInsider article, so it's unclear why Microsoft would be introducing a free service like this in the first place. (For the record, I've complained about Apple charging for MobileMe in Apple Has No Business Charging for MobileMe.)
Further, My Phone only offers a paltry 200 MB (that's megabytes folks) of total storage for all information, while MobileMe gives you 20 *GB* of storage space. You can even allocate how much goes to general storage on the iDisk and how much goes to email, contacts, calendar and so forth. (Thanks to Michael Rose at TUAW.com for MobileMe storage information).
Perhaps My Phone is part of a broader mobile push by Microsoft and we will be learning more at the Mobile World Congress, but for now, while you can't complain about the price, the service as it is described doesn't appear to provide the user with a feature set that's terribly useful.