Microsoft’s New Hotmail Emerges From Cocoon

After more than two years of testing, Microsoft is launching Windows Live Hotmail, the successor to MSN Hotmail, making it available in 36 languages across the world.

The software giant has closed the public testing period and has started the process of migrating users to this major upgrade of its Web mail service.

Windows Live is the biggest upgrade of the ubiquitous Hotmail application since its launch in 1996.

20 Million and Counting

The new client offers an improved desktop-app-like feel and promises a safer, more powerful and productive e-mail experience, said Steve Berkowitz, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Online Services Group.

“Hotmail represents an extremely compelling end-to-end e-mail experience that makes it easy for customers to get best-of-breed e-mail access across PCs, mobile devices and the Web,” he claimed.

Windows Live Hotmail has been tested by about 20 million users since Redmond first allowed people outside the company to test it in 2005.

New Code

Windows Live Hotmail has a new code foundation that will let Microsoft add improvements quickly — something that had created difficulties in the past, according to Laura DiDio, an analyst with the Yankee Group.

“It is now a more stable foundation,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Microsoft plans to introduce an additional e-mail client option for Windows Live Hotmail with the release of Windows Live Mail beta, a free consumer e-mail client available via download.

Gradual Migration

Initially, Microsoft will give existing users the option of continuing to use the old version of Hotmail if they do not want to upgrade. Eventually, though, everyone will be migrated to the new service.

New users will automatically get the new Windows Live Hotmail. However, they will have the option of choosing between two user interfaces: a “classic” layout that closely resembles the old Hotmail; or the new look.

New Look

The new interface is designed to look like Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail and calendaring desktop application.

Windows Live Hotmail offers 2 GB of storage, and the company says it will eventually increase the storage capacity.

Other features include a safety bar that appears at the top of each e-mail message, which indicates whether the message came from a known, unknown or potentially fraudulent sender. Spam protection has been enhanced and a mobile is version is also available, according to the company.

Later this month, Microsoft will release free software for linking Windows Live Hotmail with Outlook, a capability the company previously offered for a fee.

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