RealTime IT News

Hotmail Comes Alive For Microsoft

It was never dead, but MSN Hotmail is coming alive in more ways than ever.

Microsoft  today took Windows Live Hotmail to the Web in the biggest upgrade of the ubiquitous webmail application since it appeared as MSN Hotmail in 1996.

Microsoft considers Live Hotmail to be a key gateway for its online advertising business because e-mail is a popular purchase point for consumers, and advertisers want to go where the eyeballs are.

So, with 280 million users as its legacy of traction, Live Hotmail would seem to be a tool that is well positioned to help Microsoft in its advertising arms race versus Google  and Yahoo , which also offer webmail applications.

To this point, changes to MSN Hotmail have largely consisted of convenience features and increased storage capacity. But Windows Live Hotmail is endowed with greater access through a mobile phone or through an e-mail client.

Windows Live Beta
Click on the graphic for a view of the Windows Live Beta landing page

By using Windows Live Hotmail for mobile, customers can access their e-mail through a smartphone or PDA.

The software giant later this month will roll out a beta of Outlook Connector, a tool to let people view and manage their Live Hotmail accounts from Outlook with full contact, e-mail and folder synchronization.

Microsoft will also eventually introduce Windows Live Mail beta, a free consumer e-mail client available via download that will be a successor to Outlook Express and Windows Mail on Windows Vista.

Getting Live Hotmail to look and behave more like Outlook is a running theme with Microsoft, which is looking to keep up with Google and Yahoo for richer Web applications.

To that end, Live Homtail boasts right-click and drag-and-drop capabilities, preview pane customization and auto-complete addressing.

To boost interactivity, Windows Live Messenger presence is built into Windows Live Hotmail so customers can see from their inboxes if their Messenger contacts are online.

And with security being a priority, Live Hotmail features a "safety bar" that tells users if the e-mail is harmful or from a friend. There is also a "mark as unsafe" link users can click on to delete, block and report junk e-mail messages to Microsoft's spam filters.

To sign up for the Live Hotmail beta, consumers can visit Hotmail. Current MSN Hotmail customers can update their existing account to Windows Live Hotmail by logging into their account and clicking on the green Join Windows Live Hotmail button.