Windows Live Hotmail to launch today

wlh1.jpgWindows Live Hotmail, the new version of Microsoft’s webmail service, is set to launch globally in 36 languages this Monday. The revamped service will offer a number of new features to recapture users that have fled to other webmail services like Yahoo! or Gmail.

Considered by Microsoft as the biggest update of Hotmail since 1996, this new release will aim to be “safer, more powerful and productive” and easier to access, whether via the net or a mobile device. The new webmail will now offer 2 Gb of storage, allows users to import and export contacts to other webmail services, and handle right-clicks and drag and drop. Just like Gmail with Google Chat, Live Hotmail will incorporate Windows Messenger and all the Live services like OneCare or Spaces from the drop down menu on the left. Outlook Connector is one of the most eagerly awaited features of the new version, as it should allow users to “view and manage their Windows Live Hotmail account from Outlook for free, with full contact, e-mail and e-mail folder synchronization.”

Microsoft also claims to have tightened security in its webmail service by providing a “safety bar” indicating the authenticity of new messages. The spam filter will also automatically delete or block junk mail: its reliability will be tested in the coming months.

Live beta testers will be familiar with the new sleeker, although slightly disappointing new interface, the new color themes and toggling between the “classic” Hotmail look and a new interface more similar to Outlook.

If you already have a Hotmail account you can update it to the new version by clicking the green “Join Windows Live Hotmail” button in your account. Microsoft will be encouraging its 280 million Hotmail users to make the switch in the coming months, but will it effectively win back users from Yahoo! or Gmail? As Techcrunch do well to point out, it’s surprising that Microsoft hasn’t integrated their latest jewel, Silverlight, with the new Live Hotmail. Instead of giving users the chance to fully customize and build on their webmail, it seems Microsoft has decided instead to give an updated, but watered down, version of Hotmail.

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