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Microsoft ups free online storage to 5GB

Software maker removes the beta tag from Windows Live SkyDrive and increases the storage limit to 5GB.

Microsoft's hard drive in the cloud is now a reality.

On Thursday, Microsoft removed the beta tag from the Windows Live SkyDrive service. More importantly, it upped the amount of free online storage to 5GB, giving users roughly the same amount of storage that comes on a new Eee PC. That's up from a recent cap of 1GB.

The service allows for personal folders as well as ones that are shared with a select group of friends, or the public at large. Microsoft is also expanding the service to 38 countries or regions including large swaths of Europe, Central and South America, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Taiwan.

I see the launch of SkyDrive as a key piece of Microsoft's effort to build what some think of as a cloud OS--a collection of services that includes identity, messaging, photo management, contacts, as well as storage. Storage is probably the most straightforward piece, but important nonetheless.