The beta version of Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive is now open to the general public, but some nagging questions still linger.

For example will Microsoft eventually charge for its online storage service? Google says it will for its recently announced online storage service. We contacted Microsoft and to ask that question and more.

Jim Cauthorn, director, Windows Live Product Management, got back to us and this is what he had to say.

Q: What is Windows Live SkyDrive?

Cauthorn: Windows Live SkyDrive is an online storage service offered by Microsoft under the Windows Live umbrella of services. Windows Live SkyDrive has three areas for people to store data: Personal, Shared, and Public. Personal and Shared storage areas can only be accessed with a user name and password. The Public area is open to everyone on the web.

When does the service come out of beta?

We are still gathering feedback from our beta testers and plan to release the final version in the coming months.

Is the service feature complete?

Not quite. In the beta testing process, we are listening to customer feedback and evaluating ways to perfect the Windows Live SkyDrive service. Some of the more noticeable feature updates we’ve added so far include:

- Drag and drop file upload capability allowing simple upload of single files or multiple files at once.
- Thumbnails images in the folder views.
- An area showing other customers' SkyDrive folders recently visited.
- Simple file embedding from SkyDrive to other places on the web (i.e. your blog).

Will the service always be free and provide users with 500MB of storage?

This initial beta offers 500MB of free storage with a cap of 50MB on the file size you upload. This is the initial beta and while testing, we will listen to customer feedback to help us decide how much storage to offer in the final service, as well as what subscriptions options to offer.

Can you upgrade to more storage for a price?

Not at this time.

How do you invite people to share a folder in Windows Live SkyDrive that might not have an existing Microsoft user account (i.e. Hotmail, Live, MSN)?

Currently in the SkyDrive beta, the people you share with have to have a Windows Live ID (e.g., a Hotmail email address) and be in your address book.

Will Windows Live SkyDrive 'talk' to other Microsoft web applications (Hotmail)?

Windows Live is a suite of services that work seamlessly with one another, and there are already integration points with SkyDrive and other Windows Live services. For instance, all the Windows Live services include a unified contact list to make it easier to connect and share with friends and family. We look forward to creating additional integration points in the final set of services.

Will you allow 3rd parties to use APIs to create Windows Live SkyDrive applications?

We are continuing to invest and drive more services that will be added into the consistent and transparent Terms of Use that we announced at Mix 07. We plan to continue to enable partners to either build new applications or extend their existing applications or solutions using our Windows Live Service APIs and web Controls.