Microsoft announced substantial updates to Windows Live Hotmail on May 18, with an emphasis on tools and features that eliminate spam, reduce clutter, and allow for tasks such as sending 10GB of photos per message. Hotmail will leverage Windows Live services to mine contacts from social-networking services such as Facebook and MySpace. The new Hotmail additions fit with three Web trends: consolidating services from across the Web into a single application, providing that application's services via mobile, and adding new features to an application to make it more competitive.
Microsoft announced updates to Windows Live Hotmail on May
18, emphasizing a variety of new clutter-elimination and security tools at a
time when the company finds itself in ever-increasing competition against
Google and Yahoo in the online-applications arena. Of particular note is how
Hotmail now leverages a Windows Live account to provide not only contacts from
the e-mail service, but also Windows Live Messenger, Facebook and MySpace-in
turn suggestive of a larger Web trend that makes social networking a vital
component of seemingly every possible service.
The new Hotmail also emphasizes a mobile component, with
e-mail synchronization between a smartphone and the Web. Research In Motion,
Nokia and other partners are apparently building custom Hotmail apps for their
announcement comes a few weeks after Microsoft's April 29 unveiling of the new
version of Windows Live Messenger
, which also bundles a variety of
social-networking services into the user's message stream. This seems in
keeping with the Web-communication trends of the past few months, with various
companies lassoing outside applications into their existing services in a bid
to make the latter more "sticky."
Yahoo, for example, added a feature in August 2009 that
pulled in results from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and FriendFeed; its road map
involves grafting more services onto its branded e-mail and messaging services.
Over that same time period, Google has made steady updates to core properties
such as Gmail.
In a similar vein, Hotmail will incorporate the unified
contacts list from Windows Live services-"the address book that integrates all
your contacts from Hotmail, Messenger and also from other networks (such as
Facebook and MySpace)," according to Microsoft-in order to consolidate online
connections into a single space. Hotmail also links into Windows Live Skydrive,
allowing users to send-via link-up to 200 photos of up to 50MB in size, each,
for a total of 10 gigabytes of vacation snapshots in a single message. Be sure
that whomever receives that particular e-mail really, really likes you.
The new Hotmail features also include "Microsoft
SmartScreen," which attempts to distinguish between legitimate e-mail and spam;
Individual Preference Auto-Learning, which tries to use individual behavior to
help differentiate in a more refined way between spam and valued e-mail; and
Trusted Senders, which places a small logo next to e-mails that Hotmail
considers legitimate as opposed to scams.
In the name of eliminating clutter, the new Hotmail offers one-click
filters to show, say, only those that are unread, or from social networks such
as Facebook. InBox Search Auto-Complete will suggest possible searches in
response to typing letters into the search box; Conversation View displays a
long e-mail chain in a single page; View All From Sender displays previous
e-mails from that person.
Hotmail is being optimized for touch and rich browsers, for
easy access on smartphones; in addition, the Hotmail inbox supports filters,
in-line message previews, HTML messages, offline e-mail viewing, conversation
threading, the ability to flag messages, and the option to turn header details
on or off.
Besides Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft has
also devoted resources to a redesign of its MSN brand. On May 13, the company
launched a redesign of MSN Mobile, with
aesthetics mimicking the revamped MSN homepage launched in March
. All that
revamping suggests, if nothing else, that Microsoft is taking its online
properties very seriously; whether that allows it to triumph over Google and
Yahoo, which are building out their own products with notable aggression, is an