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Microsoft Radically Overhauls Hotmail

Gordon Kelly

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Microsoft Radically Overhauls Hotmail

If you use Hotmail it's probably because you've always used Hotmail. Let's face it Microsoft's web based email hasn't done itself many favours in recent years, but that all looks set to change...

The Redmond giant has today dropped Hotmail into the 21st century with a massive overhaul of its look and features, so let's break them down.

The first thing that will strike you is 'Hotmail highlights'. This takes a leaf from Outlook allowing users to now see new emails, social network updates, appointments and reminders in a single place when they log in. Alongside this is 'Active views' which borrows from Gmail allowing linked content from Hulu, YouTube and Flickr, amongst others, to be viewed directly from within the email. Also placing a nod towards Google is implementation of the long awaited 'Conversation view' that enables emails to be grouped by thread - this can be enabled or disabled with a single click.

Other areas of catch-up include the ability to link Gmail and Yahoo! email accounts to Hotmail and send emails using those addresses from directly within Hotmail, filters that can isolate emails with photos, documents, videos, etc and an improved search implementation with auto-complete suggestions. Microsoft Office documents can be edited directly from Hotmail too thanks to Google Docs-style functionality.

In terms of storage as before new users will get a 5GB storage allowance and this will automatically expand to beyond 20GB if they need it. Nice, but where the real improvement comes is attachments with up to 10GB now attachable to a single message. The caveat is individual attachments are limited to 50MB, but if you want to attach up to 200 of them to a single message you can. I wish your recipients' mail servers good luck!

On the mobile side a new touch-optimised interface has been added for accessing Hotmail by smartphones, there's HTML support, a redesigned calendar and finally push email, contact and calendar support for handsets. Contacts can be merged with those from Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Gmail, Yahoo! and AOL as well and comments posted to Facebook directly from Hotmail.

Given these features will make Hotmail even more attractive to hackers, the finally area of improvement is its much derided security. New spam fighting technology claims just four per cent of inbox emails getting through will be spam, though that's still way below my experience with Gmail. There is recognition for 'Trusted senders' (genuine eBay, banking, etc emails are identified with safety logos), full session SSL encryption and the addition of 'single-use codes': one time passwords which can be sent via SMS to users when looking to access their Hotmail accounts on public computers.

In all then we have a mixture of long overdue, interesting and genuinely exciting new features here. Hotmail has been something of a laughing stock in recent years, but with these major changes it looks like it won't be the butt of geeky jokes for much longer. A video preview of the new Hotmail system can be found at the link below and the upgraded service will go live worldwide "in mid-summer".

Link: Hotmail Preview

ChaosDefinesOrder

May 18, 2010, 6:32 pm

Unfortunately, for all the "improvements" (read: catch-up) they still haven't got the idea that people don't want a massive picture advert (which is probably expanding/roll-over supporting Flash adverts) down the side. This is, for me, something that gMail is significantly preferable for.





I personally only use Hotmail as a Windows Live Messenger login (and even then only because I can't be bothered to link my gmail to a "passport")

Gav66

May 18, 2010, 6:44 pm

Gotta love innovation!

Jay4d0

May 18, 2010, 7:27 pm

I'm liking the changes, I use both hotmail and gmail, and this will make hotmail far better and I will very much like the new 'one-time-password' SMS feature, as security is always paramount.





ps the new hotmail will include free Exchange ActiveSync for email, contacts and calendar. source: http://technologizer.com/2010/...

DrDark

May 18, 2010, 8:03 pm

Nice features. I agree about the ads though.

bazza

May 18, 2010, 9:16 pm

One time passwords for external access are definitely welcome, very good idea indeed.


The rest is just fine because I use both hotmail and gmail and it would be nice to receive less spam in my hotmail inbox, and Finaly a useable phone version.





I just hope they fixed that bug that makes hotmail download every single email from the dawn of time whenever you setup a phone or even Outlook. It's such an annoyance.


Oh and proper syncing of read or deleted emails across any platform. I hate having to see new emails on my laptop that I've already read on my phone.





Anyways, at least they are moving forward nicely. It will be more important when Windows phone 7 comes to retail.

Epic

May 19, 2010, 12:42 am

Still no IMAP support I presume?

Pbryanw

May 19, 2010, 2:04 am

I can't have been updated yet - haven't got the big advert running down the side of my screen (even with Adblock turned off) - which I assume is a new feature? Although, I've been with hotmail for a long, long time, so I always seem to get the updates last. Still no native IMAP support too I see.

rav

May 19, 2010, 2:40 am

@Epic


Don't think so but Exchange is way better anyway. Can sync mail, calendar and contacts with push.

Epic

May 19, 2010, 6:10 pm

@ravmania


The point about wanting IMAP support is to have access to a full function open standard mail protocol instead of the proprietary Exchange protocol. This gives you more choice of mail/calendar/contact clients and more functionality than POP3/SMTP alone - not everyone can or wants to run Outlook (or the handful of other clients that support Exchange).

rav

May 19, 2010, 10:33 pm

@Epic


Fair enough. Personally I don't use mail clients and just stick to web Gmail. For me the Exchange support is great for use with smartphones.

Aitch

May 22, 2010, 12:27 am

I use Yahoo and have never seen the appeal of Gmail - what is so great about it?

Paul Haynes

May 24, 2010, 7:55 pm

I like the idea of many of the changes, I currently use hotmail, gmail and yahoo mail (I actually prefer Yahoo to both others). One of the reasons i use the other two more so than hotmail is because, as a photography enthusiast, it's really annoying to have to wait for files to upload in single file as they do in hotmail currently - and at a notably, and consistently slower pace than gmail or yahoo mail as well. Being able to attach up to 10GB will also be a very handy feature for me. Albeit a fairly excessive one. How long will it take the average UK user with an average speed of 3.5mbs to download even 1GB of data in an email? I understand such capacity would generally only be used by a small percentage of 'techies' and such, but useful as increased attachment sizes are, unless broadband throughput can keep up, it may become counter productive.

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