Today, Microsoft announced the availability of Windows Live Hotmail, the successor to the company's popular MSN Hotmail Web-based email service. Hotmail has been around since 1996 and now has more than 280 million active users, making it one of the most popular Web services ever created. Microsoft said Live Hotmail has the technical underpinnings to take the email service into the next decade.
"Windows Live Hotmail represents an extremely compelling end-to-end email experience that makes it easy for customers to get best-of-breed email access across PCs, mobile devices, and the Web," said Microsoft Senior Vice President Steve Berkowitz. "Windows Live Hotmail is a cornerstone online service for Microsoft and a critical part of our online advertising business because email is a key point of influence for consumer purchases."
Live Hotmail includes a new look and feel, a host of new security- and productivity-related enhancements, and some new features that will make the email service more interesting to users. For example, Microsoft is providing all Live Hotmail customers with a free version of the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector software, which lets customers use Live Hotmail natively in Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007; previously, customers had to have a paid Hotmail or MSN account to use Outlook Connector. Soon, Microsoft will ship Windows Live Mail, its new, free, Hotmail-compatible, consumer-oriented email application for customers without Outlook. In addition, customers can now access Live Hotmail on their Windows Mobile devices via the new Windows Live Mobile client.
Microsoft also bolstered some key Hotmail services in the latest version. Email storage has been boosted from 1GB in MSN Hotmail to at least 2GB in Live Hotmail, and the company said it will continue to raise the storage limit as requested by customers. A new premium version of Live Hotmail, Windows Live Hotmail Plus, provides 4GB of storage and boosts the email attachment size from 10MB to 20MB. Live Hotmail Plus users can also utilize POP3 aggregation functionality to access other email accounts from within the Live Hotmail interface.
Microsoft said that it will roll out Live Hotmail to customers throughout the week. Existing Hotmail customers can choose to move over to Live Hotmail now or will be automatically moved over by the end of 2007. All new users will receive Live Hotmail, Microsoft said.
For more information about Live Hotmail, see my exhaustive Windows Live Hotmail review, which is now available on the SuperSite for Windows.