Microsoft is tweaking Office Web Apps and Hotmail, seeking to make further inroads in the consumer cloud space.
Updates to Hotmail include Facebook Chat integration, the ability to track packages within an e-mail without needing to navigate to the shipper's Website, a new e-mail attachment size of 25MB, support for viewing Dailymotion and Justin.tv videos from within an e-mail, and subfolders for more precise mail management.
In addition to those updates, Microsoft has engaged in a rolling series of tweaks to Hotmail, much of it in response to feedback. "A few months ago, we released a reinvented Windows Live Hotmail designed around what people said they wanted," Dick Craddock, group program manager for Windows Live Hotmail, posted Sept. 23 on The Windows Blog. "We put a lot of time and effort into careful planning, but we also recognize that with any release, we can improve, so we do our best to listen closely and respond actively."
Microsoft is also rolling out worldwide Hotmail's ability to share 10GB of photos via SkyDrive. As with the other updates, however, it may take some time to reach all users.
"During the rollout, we want everything to go smoothly as new features are added," Craddock wrote, "so we will start by upgrading a small percentage of our accounts, and as the kinks are worked out, quickly roll the features out to everyone. This process will take a few weeks."
Microsoft also made updates to Office Web Apps, its cloud-based suite of productivity applications meant to compete with similar offerings from Google. In addition to rolling out Web Apps in seven more countries, the platform now allows users to embed Excel and PowerPoint documents in a blog or Website, open a Web-based document in desktop-based Office and view Excel documents on one's phone.
"Earlier this summer we launched the ability to browse and view your Word and PowerPoint documents on your mobile phone," Jason Moore, principal lead program manager for Windows Live SkyDrive, wrote Sept. 23 on The Windows Blog. "We've now added Excel workbooks to that list, so you can view those charts and tables while on the go, wherever you are." In addition, Microsoft apparently addressed some bugs interfering with the platform's reliability.
Thanks to Microsoft's summer updates to Hotmail, users can now open Office documents sent as an attachment in any browser-even if their PCs don't have Office installed. That feature integrates Hotmail, SkyDrive and Office Web Apps.
Microsoft faces competition from Google and Yahoo in the arenas of e-mail and Web applications.