As anticipated, Microsoft today launched Windows Live Hotmail worldwide with a spiffy new AJAX interface and the intent of retiring its venerable MSN Hotmail which has over 280 million users. Some key aspects:
- A beta of a free Microsoft Office Outlook Connector will be coming later this month to allow users to handle their Hotmail in Microsoft Outlook 2003 or 2007.
- Some time in the “coming weeks,” Microsoft will release a beta of Windows Live Mail, a free desktop client for Hotmail. This would replace the current free Outlook Express and Windows Mail (in Vista) clients for Hotmail. Kip Kniskern interviewed Microsoft’s Paul Major, Director of Windows Live Hotmail, who says the Windows Live Mail client will be similar to, but different from the current Windows Live Mail Desktop beta which has no future. (Since Windows Live Hotmail was formerly named Windows Live Mail, it’s clear that the Microsoft marketers are still working their special magic.)
- Windows Live Hotmail is accessible on Web enabled phones or PDAs and “in the future” Windows Live for Windows Mobile, which will ship with Windows Mobile v6, will provide a full featured mobile Hotmail client.
There are more new features and aside from the nomenclature madness, this all seems worthwhile, but now begins the long transition of existing users which Major anticipates will be complete by November. I can’t help but observe that the transition would be faster if they had the Outlook Connector and the new Live Mail client ready now.
Update: Ina Fried has an interesting Hotmail background story that reveals that the new AJAX interface was deemed too slow, particularly on dial-up lines, and that was the reason that an updated “classic” interface was reintroduced to the final product at some delay.