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Microsoft has officially unveiled a preview of Live Mesh, the web services platform seen as a key plank of the company's aggressive software plus services strategy.

Chief software architect Ray Ozzie, who has been evangelising the project for some time, lifted the skirt on Microsoft’s Live Mesh last night.

The service will initially provide file sharing and folder synchronisation for Windows XP and Vista PCs to a closed beta of about 10,000 testers.

There are also plans to roll out Live Mesh to Apple Macs and other platforms, but the firm hasn't set a date for when customers can expect to see that happen.

The move is Microsoft's latest attempt to build the web platform of choice for consumers by merging more of its software within a SaaSy cloud. In recent months, Redmond has been working hard at blurring the lines by making its applications' capabilities available as services.

But the likes of Google, Salesforce, Amazon and Facebook might have something to say about Microsoft's online strategy. All those firms are equally keen to be the dominant Web 2.0 force.

Down the road, Microsoft hopes to bring more features to Live Mesh, including allowing customers to connect and synch all of their digital devices such as phones, games consoles, and music players.

Microsoft already has in its armoury Exchange and SharePoint Online, and Dynamics CRM Live – which was given the official red carpet treatment earlier this week.

Ozzie has also tackled the issue of making Microsoft Office productivity and collaboration available on the PC, mobile, and as a hosted service via Office Live in a direct challenge to the increasingly popular online office suite Google Apps.

Developers will probably be attracted to Microsoft's "open" platform offer to let them write code in a variety of flavours for Live Mesh that include anything from Atom to RSS and Javascript.

Meanwhile, consumers can expect to have at least 5GB of personal online storage and unlimited peer-to-peer data for synchronising information between devices.

Microsoft, which is still hotly pursuing Yahoo! in a hostile takeover bid, said it was also looking at a number of business models to monetise Live Mesh. These include paid subscriptions and advertising.

Business customers might also get a look in on the new service later this year, said the software giant. ®

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