Hotmail Gets a Makeover

Published: May 19th 2010
in News » World

All new Hotmail
Pic: screenshot

Remember Hotmail? That same old web- mail service we all have? The one that we got when we installed MSN Instant Messenger for the first time? The one mailbox everybody keeps just for spam or bugging sites that require registrations?


Well, Microsoft has finally decided that it’s time Hotmail puts up a fight and perhaps overtakes Gmail (which has been growing and adding new features at full throttle) and turns into something we might want to use on a regular basis.


Microsoft has been giving Hotmail a major (and way overdue) overhaul in the last couple of months and will soon have some cool new features. Let's check them out.


First of all, the new Hotmail service will offer a "sweep" feature, that seems to be a "hybrid of bulk actions and rules" (somewhat similar to Outlook's rules) which will allow you to apply actions that will affect a bunch of emails at once, when setting these rules for future conversations. In short, "a clever tool for keeping your inbox tidy." Another new feature heading our way, is integrated slide shows for attached images, both incoming and outgoing. Nice! The new Hotmail, will also offer Exchange support, thus enabling mobile access, letting you use your phone’s own e-mail, contact and calendar apps as long as the handset supports Exchange.


In addition, the mailing service will finally get browser-integrated documents, meaning you’ll be able to open attached docs right in your browser just like Gmail (Google Docs service) using Microsoft's Office Web Apps. However, the Web Apps lack some abilities that Google's service offers like its strong PDF viewer.


Another Gmail feature that Hotmail is going to implement is the ability to play videos right inside your mailbox, just like Gmail's YouTube plug-in.


The renovated service will also offer better filtering options, for instance you could see only mails that originated from social networks in a single click. Bing is also coming to Hotmail, allowing you to search for images, clip art, videos, maps, and Web pages from the email composition window; then you can embed what you have found in a message with one click.


On the downside, the service will require you to install Microsoft's Silverlight plug-in. Without it, some of the nicer features simply won't work for the user and recipients on the other end. In addition, advertising is going to kick in. So, whether you are just logged in or reading a message, a chunky long ad will appear on the side. Unlike Gmail's keyword based ads, Hotmail's ads are going to be pretty random. Guess somebody needs to pay for all of this. However, you’ll be able to get rid of the ads by paying 20 bucks a year. Just how is that considered a free mail service?


If you are already using Hotmail, you are probably going to like this update. But will people who have a different web-mail service switch? Hard to say; Microsoft obviously hopes so. The real sign of victory will be if lots of Gmail users will switch over, but that seems unlikely. That said, Hotmail does provide the tools to defect.


It is good to see that Hotmail is back in the game. The best thing that could happen would be if Hotmail started releasing more and more updates, which would eventually spark a war (so we could enjoy the spoils of it) just like Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer battle all the time.

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