It is one of the most successful Web services ever created: Hotmail, the Web-based email solution that Microsoft purchased in late 1997, now serves over 280 million active users, and the fact that it's lasted as long as it has on its creaky original foundations is nothing short of miraculous. But this week, for the first time ever, Hotmail is being significantly upgraded with new underpinnings that Microsoft hopes will last another decade. Now rebranded as Windows Live Hotmail after a short time during which Microsoft planned to rename the service as Windows Live Mail, this new Hotmail version is poised to deliver where other Windows Live services, thus far, have fallen short.
Indeed, Hotmail is different from other Windows Live services in many ways. In contrast with the rapid-fire release schedule of other Windows Live services, Microsoft really took it's time with this new Hotmail version, which was completely rearchitected from the ground up to meet the needs of today's users. The company started working on this revision years ago, and it first entered external beta back in mid-2005. Eventually, the pool of people testing the service grew to over 20 million, a considerable sum for a free online service. During that time, of course, Microsoft switched gears on its plans for the Internet. Hotmail, like many of the products and services that had previously come out of MSN, was switched over to the new Windows Live initiative. (For more information about this, please refer to my articles, MSN: The Inside Story and Windows Live Preview.) Given its popularity, Hotmail had always been strategic to Microsoft, of course. But with this move from MSN to the Windows Live umbrella came a new level of responsibility. Hotmail had to integrate better with Windows and other strategic Microsoft products in addition to being a first-class email solution.
The result, predictably, is exactly what Microsoft was looking for: Windows Live Hotmail is a modern and mature Web mail service. It offers desktop application-like capabilities through its Web interface. It features excellent Windows and Windows Mobile integration hooks. And it will be augmented down the road with a full-featured desktop email client that finally unifies the mess Microsoft created with Outlook Express and Windows Mail. And if you're an Outlook or Windows Mobile smart phone user, fear not: I've got some very good news for you too.
Hotmail's place in the Windows Live ecosystem
Though Hotmail was original conceived as a standalone email solution, Microsoft has of course integrated it thoroughly into a more or less cohesive set of services that's now called Windows Live. These services can be broken down into three basic groups. There's the so-called "connected" experiences, such as Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger (see my review), and Windows Live Spaces (see my review), which are the services through which you, the user, connects with other individuals, including friends, coworkers, and family members. Other parts of Windows Live include the "informed" experiences--Windows Live Search (see my review of its predecessor, MSN Search), Windows Live Expo (online shopping), and the Live.com Web portal--and the "protected" experiences, such as Windows Live OneCare (see my review), Family Safety (Web filtering for kids), and Safety Center (an online security scanner). And while this may sound like a lot of services, check out the Windows Live Ideas Web site for a longer list of what Microsoft's working on at the moment. It's pretty impressive.
It's also worth noting that even Windows Live itself is just part of a larger whole. Existing at the same logical level as the entire Windows Live set of services are other Microsoft online services like Xbox Live (see my review), and Office Live (see my preview), as well as various MSN services (like the MSN.com portal and MSN Soapbox). Below each of these services are common lower-level services and core infrastructure. This is technology like integrated contacts, identity, storage, billing, datacenter operations, presence, advertising, and search. Say what you will about Microsoft's apparent struggles online, but the company has built up a pretty effective platform here. And it's growing all the time.
With over 280 million active users, Hotmail is the gateway to Microsoft's vast set of online services. It is the reason so many people have signed up for Passport (now called Windows Live ID) accounts. Microsoft refers to Hotmail as the "glue" of the Windows Live and MSN networks, because so many customers use Hotmail's Web interface as a jumping off point to explore and use other Windows Live and MSN services. Statistically, this makes sense: In that connected experiences category I previously mentioned, 50 percent of usage is related to email. And these connected services represent about 30 percent of the time, overall, that typical users spend online. For hundreds of millions of people worldwide, then, Hotmail is a big part of what it means to be online, connected, and communicating with other people.
Of course, Hotmail also accommodates the various ways and places in which people now want to access email. That is, many people now want to access email constantly, whether they're at work, at home, or, with a new generation of mobile devices, on the go. And Microsoft has Hotmail-based solutions for all of these scenarios. Home users can, of course, access the Web-based Hotmail service--what we're focusing on here in this review--or access Hotmail through Outlook 2003 and 2007 (see below for details) or the upcoming Windows Live Mail client. (Again, see below; this client was previous called Windows Live Mail Desktop: See my beta screenshot gallery.) At work or school, users can again access Web-based Hotmail, or access their institutional email, hosted by Windows Live Hotmail, via the Web or Outlook 2003/2007. For those on the go and preferably using a Windows Mobile-based device like my Motorola Q smart phone, you have new options as well: Web-based Hotmail, yes, but also Windows Live for Mobile (see below).
New features in Windows Live Hotmail
As the stickiest service in the Windows Live ecosystem, the new version of Windows Live Hotmail benefits greatly from the service's popularity. Because Hotmail drives so many people to other Windows Live products and services, some functionality that previously required a paid subscription is now free to all Hotmail users. And Microsoft has made the advertising stuff that does appear in the Web mail interface less obtrusive, especially if you're a paying customer. (See below for information about the paid version of Windows Live Hotmail, called Windows Live Hotmail Plus.) "This is a win-win for advertisers and consumers," Microsoft group product manager Brooke Richardson told me in a recent briefing. "We can still monetize Hotmail but do it in a way that is additive or will at least not get in the way of the core email experience."
And what about that core email experience? You won't be surprised, I imagine, to discover that it's changed for the better in this major revision. Here are the features that I think are most important in the new Windows Live Hotmail.
From a look and feel perspective, Windows Live Hotmail closely resembles a desktop email application like Outlook (Figure). There's a toolbar at the top, with all the expected options, such as New, Reply, Forward, Delete, Check Mail, and so on. And then there's an Outlook-like three-pane view, with a folder list, email list, and reading pane displayed horizontally as you move your eye from left to right across the page. This default view is the so-called "full" view, and it's what you'll see if you start a new Hotmail account on or after May 7, 2007. But Microsoft heard from testers that this new full view was a bit too different from the traditional Hotmail look and feel. So they're also offering a "classic" view that looks more like the old Hotmail (Figure). It's sort of a half-way house between MSN Hotmail and the new full view. And as an added side bonus, it's not a bad option for people with slow Internet connections.
"This was a big feedback piece," Richardson told me. "There are hundreds of millions of people out there that still love the classic Hotmail interface. Plus, upgrading can be scary. So the new classic view looks more like the traditional Hotmail interface but includes all the safety features of the new version. Anyone migrating from Hotmail to Windows Live Hotmail will get the classic view by default." Microsoft will utilize customer education techniques to help them move slowly over to the new interface, I was told.
Additionally, and temporarily, Microsoft is also allowing existing customers to go back to the old Hotmail UI. Obviously, that will stop being an option at some point. For purposes of this review, I'm going to stick with the full view because it offers the full Windows Live Hotmail experience.
Another part of that experience is the new reading pane. This pane, which can be displayed on the right, on the bottom (Figure), or disabled all together (Figure), lets you view email as you navigate from message to message in the email list, without having to open a separate window, or is more typical with Web mail, navigate to a new page. The result is an email application-like experience and it's a huge enhancement if you're used to old-fashioned Web mail clients like the old MSN Hotmail.
Microsoft also provides some basic color themes so you can personalize the Hotmail experience somewhat. In addition to the standard blue-green Windows Live look, there are also blue, red, black (Figure), silver, pink, green, purple and orange themes. I don't find many of these particularly attractive. What I'd like to see in the future is a fully skinnable environment so that you could make Hotmail look like Outlook 2007 or whatever and let individuals create their own UIs. Colors are a nice start, but they're only a start.
On a positive note, I've tested Windows Live Hotmail in IE 7 and Mozilla Firefox 2 (see my review), and it appears to render almost identically in each browser, with a few exceptions. For the heck of it, I also tried out the service with Apple Safari 2.0 (which is Mac-only), and there it provided only the classic view, which doesn't sport a reading pane or any of the drag and drop features described below. Basically, you're going to get the best experience in IE, but Firefox works pretty well too.
If you're familiar with some of the security features Microsoft has added to Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7, see my review), Windows Mail in Windows Vista, and Outlook 2007, then the security advances in Windows Live Hotmail will seem very familiar. There's a new Safety Bar--similar to the Information Bar in IE 7--that displays color-coded alert flags for emails that Hotmail finds suspicious. This provides a nice visual cue about the safety level of the email. For example, you'll see a yellow Safety Bar if an email with embedded images, links, or attachments arrives from a source that's not in your contacts list or safe senders list (Figure). And you'll see a red Safety Bar when a potentially fraudulent email, like a phishing email, arrives.
Microsoft says that email attachments are automatically scanned, and there's a fairly conspicuous Trend Micro icon on email message screens, suggesting that Microsoft is using a Trend Micro anti-virus solution instead of their own in-house technologies. Regardless, the AV scanning is free, and appreciated, though I'm curious what would happen if you actually tried to send amalicious attachment for which Trend Micro had no solution.
In addition to the automatic scanning, Hotmail sports pervasive junk mail controls with automatic reporting and user-controlled block and allow lists for fine-tuning email filtering. Overall, the level of protection is just about exactly right and what you'd expect from a modern Web mail solution.
Windows Live Hotmail now provides every user with "at least" 2 GB of storage space, which means that all Hotmail users will get 2 GB of space by default, but Microsoft reserves the right to increase that amount in the future as needed. That's a big deal, because it means that virtually any email user could manage all of their email via Microsoft's servers if they wanted to. Previously, Hotmail supported just 1 GB of storage space.
When you compose a new email message, Windows Live Hotmail provides automatic address completion functionality, which is a welcome addition (Figure). The recommended addresses come from your contacts list as well as the list of email addresses from which you've received email.
In another email application-like feature, Hotmail now provides automatic inline spell checking with suggested corrections, just like Outlook (Figure): You'll see a swiggly red line under potential misspellings, and when you right-click that word, a list of corrections appears. You can also add words to your Hotmail dictionary via this right-click menu, or just choose to ignore the notation. The old version of MSN Hotmail sported some spelling functionality, but you had to manually trigger each spell check. There's no grammar checker.
Also like an email application, you can drag and drop email items (but not folders, not even for reordering). So if you want to drag an email message from the Inbox to the Deleted folder, you just click and hold it as you would in any desktop application and drag it on over (Figure). Hotmail also supports multi-selecting, so you can select multiple email messages, contiguously or not, and drag them to new locations, or right-click and perform actions like Mark as Read, Delete (Figure), Junk, and the like.
Windows Live Hotmail provides full text searching of email from a center-mounted search box that also lets you optionally search the Web; there are buttons for both Mail and Web to accommodate this. (Search in MSN Hotmail, by comparison, could only examine mail headers.) Email searches are returned in a temporary Search Results folder and appear inline in Windows Live Mail just like the Inbox (Figure). If you do choose to search the Web, Windows Live Mail opens a new browser window and forwards your request to the Live.com search engine.
Email composition includes all the HTML email niceties you'd expect, with various font and font styles, text justification, bulleting, indenting, and so forth. You can easily insert hyperlinks (Figure) from the toolbar, as well as a cool new feature called a Search Link: Simply highlight some text in your message, click the Search Link button, and you'll create a hyperlink (Figure) that will search Live.com for the selected text. Neat.
Another hidden feature is the Photo Upload tool: When you go to attach a file in an email message in Hotmail, you'll see two choices from the pop-down menu: File and Photo. As expected, File will display a Choose File dialog box from which you can navigate in your system to find the file you'd like to attach. But if you choose Photo, you'll see the Photo Upload tool, which loads in the browser window and lets you graphically navigate through pictures in a single folder and select the ones you'd like to add (Figure). As you mouse over individual photos in the tool, you can select them for inclusion and rotate in two directions (Figure). If you click a photo, the tool moves into Edit mode, from which you can perform other operations related to contrast, brightness, cropping, and the like (Figure). It's no Photoshop, of course, but it's a nice feature. Once you've selected all the photos you want, you click the Upload Now button and resized versions of the images are all added as attachments (Figure). By default, larger photos are resized so that they're no more than 600 pixels in the largest dimension. Thumbnail versions in the actual email are no larger than 320 pixels (Figure). One downside: The Photo Upload tool requires IE. If you're using Firefox or another full view-compatible browser, you'll only see the File option, in which case you can simply attach photos as you would any file. And these files aren't automatically resized, so be careful if you're sending photos in this way.
While Contacts has been upgraded along with the Hotmail email component (Figure), and sports a number of new features including Contacts/Web searching, one-click contacts addition, and so on, the Hotmail Calendar component, conspicuously, has not been updated at all (Figure). Indeed, choosing Calendar from the Hotmail folder list is like a blast from the past, though it at least confirms to whatever color theme you've chosen. Microsoft tells me that Hotmail Calendar will be updated later this year. Hopefully, it will conform to Web standards and be easily accessible via Vista's Windows Calendar and Outlook Calendar. That's most definitely not the case today, though those who still subscribe to premium MSN services will retain their Outlook Calendar capabilities. Other Hotmail users are out of luck, for now at least.
Speaking of integration with the desktop, Microsoft has made a number of important and positive changes along these lines as well. Windows Live Hotmail now works natively with Microsoft Outlook 2003 and 2007 via a new version of the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, which will now be made available for free to all Hotmail users, whether they're paying customers or not. For consumers and those without Outlook, Microsoft will soon ship a public beta of its upcoming Windows Live Mail client (formerly called Windows Live Mail Desktop), which will replace both Outlook Express and Windows Vista's Windows Mail. (Windows Live Mail is based, technologically, on both of these products and is a superset of each, while offering interesting additional functionality.)
The new Microsoft Office Outlook Connector is free to all Hotmail users but available as a separate download and install. I wasn't able to test this feature with Windows Live Hotmail, though I've used it in the past and have been told it hasn't changed much. (A version was not available during the beta in time for this review.) Here's the gist: The Outlook Connector will ship in English only in beta form, but will eventually be made available in 11 languages. Initially, Outlook Connector for Windows Live Hotmail will work only with email folders and contacts, and not calendar, though that will come eventually as Hotmail Calendar is upgraded. (Calendar sync still works for MSN subscribers, however.)
The Outlook Connector works with Outlook 2003 and 2007and provides the ultimate Hotmail experience, since it combines Microsoft's Web-based email solution with the most powerful and rich desktop client available today. Additionally, the Connector seamlessly synchronizes Outlook contacts with Windows Live Contacts, and you get the same Windows Live Contact benefits in Outlook as you do on the Web, where contacts that are updated online are automatically synched down to the client. Outlook, of course, can also manage various other accounts and account types simultaneously, including Exchange Server, POP3, and IMAP, and in Outlook 2007 you get new benefits such as Instant Search and the new business card view in Contacts. Outlook, too, is an excellent offline email solution: Changes are synchronized automatically when you're connected again.
In the coming weeks, Microsoft will also ship a new public beta version of Windows Live Mail (Figure), which will work natively with Windows Live Hotmail. I've been using a beta version of this Outlook Express/Windows Mail derivative for some time now, and I'll be reviewing the product separately once the public beta is available. Here's what's going on with this interesting and free new email client. To date, Microsoft has painted a very complicated story with its free consumer-oriented email clients. There's Outlook Express in XP, Windows Mail in Vista, and now the new Windows Live Mail, which replaces the other two products and will be the only one of the three actively developed going forward.
"This is the new client," Richardson told me, "and it's an evolution and superset of all the clients that came before. We're cleaning up the consumer client story. Windows Live Mail is the marriage of Windows Live services and the desktop, and it's the only client we're going to invest in going forward."
Windows Live Mail supports multiple POP3, IMAP, and Windows Live Hotmail accounts, and RSS (Real Simple Syndication) functionality, but additional features "light up" if you're using Hotmail, including true Messenger integration. It offers offline email and synchronization functionality and, unlike in the private beta, there are no advertisements. Though the ad-filled Active Search pane from the private beta will continue, you can now toggle it off. Halleluiah.
Windows Live Mail will requires Windows XP SP2 or newer. Did I mention it was free? Why is it free? "We want people to consider Hotmail as their primary personal email account," Richardson said. "We can monetize Hotmail via ads in the Web service, but also via the Outlook Connector, because people have to buy Office or Outlook to utilize that. Plus, people who use Hotmail with a desktop client are typically more active email users: They are more likely to buy Windows Live Hotmail Plus." (See below.)
Windows Live Hotmail also integrates with Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft's instant messaging client, though in somewhat vague ways. If you view an email from a Messenger contact, for example, you'll see a small Messenger icon next to their name that will indicate their current presence status (online, busy, etc.) But you can't launch an instant message from this icon. And though Hotmail Contacts identifies which contacts have Windows Live IDs, these links aren't actionable either, in a Messenger sense. (If you click on one, you'll trigger a new email message to that contact.)
Speaking of contacts, one useful bit of integration involves Windows Live Contacts, the new centralized contacts store that operates behind the scenes in Hotmail, Messenger, and other Windows Live services. If one of your Messenger contacts updates their personal information, for example, those changes will reflect across all Windows Live Contacts-compatible products and services, so you'll see the changes in your Contacts list in Hotmail.
Finally, Windows Live Hotmail also integrates nicely with various portable devices, especially Windows Mobile-based smart phones. Here, Microsoft is delivering on its "software plus services" mantra in a major way, because accessing Hotmail via a mobile device is, of course, the ultimate example of anywhere/anytime information access.
"People aren't chained to their desks," Richardson said. "We needed to make Hotmail super-accessible." To this end, there are now many different levels of smart device integration, which let you access your Hotmail email and contacts (and some other Windows Live services) when you're away from a PC. You can get SMS notifications on your smart phone each time a Hotmail-based email arrives. You can utilize a mobile Web version of Hotmail via your smart phone's Web browser. Or, if you have a Windows Mobile client, you can access the new Windows Live for Mobile, which includes an integrated client with Windows Live Hotmail, Messenger, Spaces, and Contacts integration. It's part of Windows Mobile 6, of course, but Windows Mobile 5 users will be able to download the client directly to their device as well.
Changes since the MSN days
With the move to Windows Live, Hotmail has changed in other ways since it was an MSN branded service. As with MSN Hotmail, there are free and paid versions of Windows Live Hotmail. The free versions are similar, but with some positive changes. Storage goes from 1 GB to 2 or more GB, and Microsoft says that "Windows Live Hotmail will continue to grow its storage capacity to meet customer needs." The inactive timeout period has increased from 30 days in MSN Hotmail to 120 days in Windows Live Hotmail, largely to accommodate the needs of students, who are often away for much of the summer. There are the new security features and productivity enhancements, and the now-free version of the Outlook Connector, which previously required a paid MSN subscription.
On the premium front, the new Windows Live Hotmail Plus replaces MSN Hotmail Plus. It's still $19.95 a year, but this versions gains 4 GB or more of storage space. There's no account expiration, so that inactivity timeout is no longer a concern. And Plus account holders can send 20 MB attachments, vs. 10 MB with the free version. And there are no graphical advertisements in Web mail, which is certainly welcome. Windows Live Hotmail Plus users can also take advantage of POP3 aggregation, and access email from other accounts via the Hotmail interface.
Understanding the competition
Windows Live Hotmail has two main competitors, the identities of which should be fairly obvious to most readers. The first is the new version of Yahoo! Mail, while the second is Google Gmail; both are still in beta. Like Windows Live Hotmail, both are AJAX-based Web mail solutions, meaning they offer desktop application-like functionality to some degree. Gmail is the weakest in this regard: You can't right-click anything, drag and drop items, or perform other application-like operations that both Yahoo and Hotmail handle with ease.
Of the three, Yahoo's solution is arguably the prettiest, while Hotmail and Gmail are more Spartan looking. Hotmail does let you customize the look and feel of the Web client with color themes, a feature that is sorely lacking in Gmail and Yahoo Mail. But I've been told by some that they actually prefer the low-impact Gmail UI. If that's true for you, you'll enjoy the default Windows Live Hotmail UI as well.
All of these Web email solutions offer at least 2 GB of storage, and while Yahoo recently made headlines by announcing unlimited storage in even its free Web mail client, the truth is, all of these services offer virtually unlimited storage already for all practical purposes, and it's clear that storage is no longer the differentiator it once was. You can expect Google and Microsoft to raise their storage limits as needed over time: Microsoft has explicitly pledged that it will do so.
From an organizational standpoint, both Hotmail and Yahoo let you add new folders easily using right-click, but both are limited to a single level of folders: You can't put folders inside of other folders as you can in a true desktop client. And Gmail doesn't let you create new folders at all. Instead, you are expected to organize a single big pool of email messages using labels, which does have one nice side-effect: Since you can tag an email message with multiple labels, it can appear in two or more views, something you can't do with Hotmail or Yahoo. Gmail also has a nice message threading view, in which all messages from an email threaded are displayed together.
If you want to use one of these services to manage email from another account, you're going to run into some interesting limitations. With Hotmail, you need to pay $19.99 a year for POP3 account aggregation. With Yahoo, you also need to pay, in this case for Yahoo Mail Plus (also about $20 a year) to get this functionality. In Gmail you can use a free feature called Mail Fetcher to get POP3-based mail from other accounts. That's pretty handy if you want to access all of your email through the same interface and intend to do so via the Web. All three services will forward their own mail to other accounts. If you don't mind using a desktop application, virtually any decent email solution, such as Outlook 2007 or Mozilla Thunderbird (see my review), can handle multiple email accounts.
All of these services offer some form of mobile client, though the quality and availability of those clients will vary widely depending on the device you use. As a Windows Mobile 5.0 user, I have to say that Microsoft's solutions are by far the most compelling on that device. With Gmail, you need a Java-compatible device, and I never did get Gmail Mobile running on my Q, though it's supposed to work. Yahoo, meanwhile, offers a Yahoo Mail for Mobile service, which comes in two forms: An HTML-based version that should work on virtually any device with a browser, and a smart client, Yahoo! Go 2.0, that looks somewhat like Pocket Outlook on Windows Mobile. This application (currently in "gamma," whatever that means) it not currently available for my Windows Mobile 5.0-based phone, though it looks pretty sweet and should be out soon.
So which Web mail service is the best? Honestly, all of these Web-based email solutions are excellent, and any should meet the needs of even the most demanding users. That said, Web mail is an acquired taste if you've historically used traditional desktop email applications. Even the most modern AJAX-based Web mail clients are comparably somewhat limited, and anyone who gets the volume of email I deal with will likely never consider Web mail anyway. But such sufferers are a minority: For the majority of email users out there, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo are all excellent. What draws me to Hotmail, especially the new version, is the deep integration with Microsoft's other products and services. I'm already a heavy user of Outlook, Windows Live Messenger, and Windows Mobile, so Hotmail is the obvious choice for me.
Microsoft is launching Windows Live Hotmail today globally in 36 languages. Customers who sign up for a new Hotmail account will automatically get the new version, while existing customers will see an obvious new green "Join Windows Live Hotmail" button to help them make the switch. (Those customers will retain their existing hotmail.com addresses.) Later this month, Microsoft will ship public betas of the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector and Windows Live Mail. The Windows Live for Mobile beta client should be available for Windows Mobile 5.0-based devices as well.
Later this year, Microsoft will begin a focused customer migration from the classic Hotmail to the new Windows Live Hotmail. This is expected to start in the third quarter of 2007. "We will automatically update all Hotmail customers to Windows Live Hotmail by the end of the year," Richardson said. Soon, the classic Hotmail we all know and love (or love to hate, in some cases) will be retired for good.
Given the apparent parity between the three major Web mail solutions available today, you might think that choosing one is a tough decision. I'm not so sure. While it's true that Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail will meet the needs of almost any email user, I recommend looking beyond the basics when it comes time to make a choice. For example, while most people may not consider themselves "Microsoft people" or "Google people," per se, the reality is that anyone who uses the Internet regularly has likely placed a stake in one or more of these camps already. I'm pretty obviously a Microsoft guy, but I also use Google's Gmail and Blogger services regularly, and I contribute photos to Yahoo's Flickr service every so often. Of the three, however, Microsoft is the most important to me: I keep up with my friends, family, and closest business contacts via Windows Live Messenger, and I'm a dedicated Outlook user, which sort of renders the back-end email services I utilize less important (assuming they stay up, of course). I'm also a dedicated Windows user, so whatever perceived advantage one might get from using a non-Microsoft email solution may have doesn't really mean much to me. In the end, when it comes to communicating with the people I care most about, I'm currently split between Microsoft and Google, but in my particular case, it's pretty clear that Microsoft ultimately wins out. That may not be true for you. But if you're a Windows user, the big integration wins are going to occur (and have already occurred) via Windows Live. And that's just fine with me: Though I would never have considered using the old MSN Hotmail as my primary email account, I'm almost certainly going to be doing that now that Windows Live Hotmail is available, though of course I'll typically do so via Outlook and not the Web interface. For the millions of email users out there with less strenuous email requirements, a Web interface will work just fine. And Windows Live Hotmail looks like it's ready for the next decade. Highly recommended.