Microsoft announced this past week the public beta of the new My Phone service.  My Phone allows you to sync your phone’s data, including contacts, calendar, tasks, photos, videos, music, and documents to a hosted service in the cloud.  All information syncs automatically in the background, backing up your data and allowing you to access additional services online.  My Phone includes some unique features, including the ability to search text messages online and archive them to the web, upload and download documents, and sort and store music and video files online.  Best of all, the service is completely free, setting it apart from competitive services like Apple’s MobileMe service which runs $99/year.

I had a chance to try out the service this weekend and overall was impressed by the functionality.  The setup process was quick and easy, taking less than five minutes to get up and running.  From the website, all you need to do is enter your phone number.  A text message is then sent directly to your phone with a link to download and install the application.  After the initial setup, the service will automatically sync when a new file, contact, or calendar entry is uploaded to the phone or website.  The user interface is simple and easy to understand.  I really like the online text messaging management and ability to synch your data with other phones in the event you lose your phone or switch to a different device.  I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how the content sharing platform expands, especially with Live Mesh and social networking sites.

The service is still in beta stage, with new improvements expected soon.  In particular, I’d like to see enhanced capabilities to sync information with the SD card, deeper integration with Live Mesh, and a more streamlined experience with Outlook mobile and corporate mail.  The 200MB initial storage limit is sufficient for most users, but it would be nice to expand or purchase additional space.

All in all, the service works quite well and is an exciting addition to the growing Windows Mobile portfolio.  My Phone will be particularly interesting for consumers and small businesses who might not have access to Microsoft Exchange and syncing capabilities.  The service is available on all Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 smartphones and can be accessed at the My Phone beta site.