While Microsoft already offers a nice Hotmail app for Android, it wasn't optimized for the Kindle Fire (and, as I've discovered, doesn't work on Android 3.x tablets or the Android 4-based Samsung Galaxy Nexus). This week, however, the software giant took the next step in its ongoing effort of making its Hotmail service more accessible on mobile platforms, starting with a version specifically designed for the Fire.
Previously, Microsoft worked with Apple to integrate Hotmail into the iOS accounts functionality. And its Hotmail Android app shipped in December.
"The result has been over 12 million active Hotmail users on iOS and over 3 million active users of our Android application," Microsoft's David Law noted in a post to the Inside Windows Live blog. "In addition to making Hotmail work great on devices running Windows, we'll continue to invest in great experiences on other major device platforms."
Next up, the Kindle Fire. This inexpensive yet powerful tablet computer is based on a highly customized version of Android, as you probably know. (Read my Kindle Fire review for more information.) And Microsoft's free new Hotmail app for Kindle Fire is now available on Amazon's AppStore for Android.
"The Hotmail Kindle app gives you several advantages over the native Kindle Fire mail application," Law wrote. "Whereas the native Kindle application simply downloads your mail via POP3, with the new Hotmail app you can sync all your mail, contacts, folders, and subfolders via the more robust Exchange Active Sync protocol. Because the Kindle Fire uses a different implementation of Android, we needed to make some updates to our previous Hotmail app for Android to ensure it worked well. Now that we've finished the work and the app is ready, we’re excited to give customers a great Hotmail experience on the Kindle Fire. Take a look and let us know what you think."
I installed the Hotmail app for Kindle Fire this morning to check it out. Frankly, it's not great. In landscape mode, there's no attempt to take advantage of the extra space by providing, say, a message preview/reading pane next to the message list, as is the case with the iOS Mail app. Instead, you get the same list of messages as you do in portrait view. That said, the inclusion of contacts and calendar sync is appreciated (while the exclusion of tasks, or what Hotmail calls "to-do's" is noted), though I should point out that they don't appear to be accessible from within the app itself, which appears to be only about email.
Frankly, one of the things I really like about mobile platforms is their ability to aggregate multiple accounts into seamless, integrated experiences. For example, I access all of my personal and work email accounts through a single Linked Inbox in Windows Phone (as described in Windows Phone 7.5: Linked Inbox for Email Consolidation). And I do the same thing in iOS devices (iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod touch) using that system's built-in apps for mail, contacts, and calendar.
The problem on Android, of course, is that the built-in mail app, which is annoyingly separate from the Gmail app, is lousy. And that's why a Hotmail app exists in the first place. I'd rather see the Android mail app updated to a single experience that works well for Gmail as well as all other email account types. This will do in the meantime, I guess. But it's not ideal.