Yesterday, Microsoft announced a new version of its MSN online service that will be available in early January. Today, the company unveiled a new version of Hotmail, its Web-based e-mail service. This update, already available to the general public, includes improved spam filters, calendar software, and a contact application for keeping track of names, addresses and phone numbers.
Much like the services from Yahoo! and Mail.com, Hotmail lets you send and re-ceive e-mail via the Internet using any browser. You dont need a standalone e-mail client or an e-mail address assigned by an employer or ISP, and if youre willing to forgo a few amenities, you can use the service for free.
A few minor changes appear in the services overall interface. The company says that opening and editing your list of favorite contacts is easier, for instance. Microsoft also points to improved anti-spam tools that use technology from Brightmail, one of the leading vendors in the field. You can also adjust the stringency of the services junk mail filters and alert Microsoft to specific spam messages.
But the real news is the addition of calendar and contact software. Much like Outlook, Microsofts standalone e-mail client, Hotmail now lets you share your calendar with friends and family, receive reminders for important appointments, and navigate through the phone numbers and addresses of all your contacts.
A basic version of Hotmail is free, giving you 2MB of storage for messages, 1MB for attachments and a tool that scans for viruses (without removing). Pay versions of the service give you more storage and some additional perks, such as a tool for cleaning viruses and the ability to shuttle your mail into Microsoft Outlook Express or Outlook XP. There are four pay versions of Hotmail that vary in price from $19.95 for 10MB of message storage and 3MB for attachments to $54.95 for 100MB and 25MB, respectively.
According to Microsoft, more than 145 million people use Hotmail each month.