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Microsoft to introduce test versions of free services

Microsoft will introduce test versions of two new free services: Windows Live Folders and Windows Live Photo Gallery, media reported Wednesday.

Windows Live Photo Gallery is a new version of the photo application found on Microsoft's two most recent operating systems, Windows XP and Windows Vista. It simplifies how people can share photos on their Windows Live Spaces site, Microsoft's social networking platform. Windows Live Folders will provide up to 500 megabytes of online storage in the United States in a limited test release. Microsoft said it will gauge usage during the test release and possibly add more capacity if needed.

Chris Jones, Microsoft's corporate vice president, said the company will unveil the next wave of services later this year, but its goal will be to stitch together the disparate Windows Live services and offer a more unified experience. “Soon we'll begin to offer a single installer which will give customers the option of an all-in-one download for the full Windows Live suite of services instead of the separate installation experience you see today,” said Jones.

Microsoft plans to take on Web competitors Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. with its “software plus services” strategy that aims to leverage its dominant market position for software running on the computer to a new suite of services delivered over the Internet. (