REDMOND, Washington: Microsoft has announced it intends to compete head-on with Google and other rivals by offering online software applications for data storage.

This week's launch of Windows Live includes an electronic mail program, a photo-sharing application and a writing tool for bloggers.

The software titan is coming late to the Web 2.0 party but it is determined to make its mark on the "cloud computing" market - where data is stored online - crowded at the moment by Google and Yahoo! and hundreds of smaller firms.

As an incentive to millions of PC users Microsoft plans to give away some of its offerings, such as photo-sharing and disk storage, but will charge for computer security and business services targeted at small and midsize firms.

Microsoft is "taking the communications and sharing components and creating a set of services that ... we believe [to be] the one suite of services and applications for personal and community use across the PC, the web and the phone".

Or so hypes Brian Hall, general manager for Windows Live.

Data sourced from International Herald-Tribune; additional content by WARC staff