… just not for everyone. Apparently, Microsoft is rolling it out in phases because of the enormous size of their user base. Here’s a post from the folks at Windows Live Wire (the official Microsoft Live blog) describing the update, which does indeed look sweet:

Hotmail update coming soon

It’s late September already, and time for that inevitable question: what did you do on your summer vacation? Well, this summer, the Hotmail team and I were hard at work on a new version of Hotmail, and we’re super excited to start rolling it out to you very soon.

Here’s a sneak peak at some of the changes.

A great new look – We’ve done a little remodeling, and we think Hotmail looks much, much nicer and is easier to use. We did a lot of testing around the world to see what people liked and didn’t like. We’re really excited about the final results, and we hope you like it too! There’s also a whole new set of vibrant themes that replace our old color schemes.

Classic & Full, together at last! – Our clever developers figured out how to take the performance of the Classic version of Hotmail, and combine it with features of the Full version, in a single experience. Now everyone gets the same features. You don’t have to trade off speed for functionality or decide which version is better for you. If you have been using the Full version, you’ll see much faster page load times, and if you have been using Classic, you now get to use the reading pane, drag & drop, and other features formerly limited to the Full version.

A contact list that’s more than just contacts – Our contact list is now much more useful. Besides a new layout and improved look, we added features that are both fun and time-saving.

  • Fun - If your Messenger contacts have a display picture, that picture will appear in your list.
  • Time-saving - When you view a contact, you can see recent e-mail they’ve sent you, send them a message from right in the contact page, and view items from across Windows Live that you’ve shared together.

Now THAT’s something to write home about! – We completely redesigned the experience of composing a new message. We have brand new auto-complete functionality for e-mail addresses, and a new contact picker that even detects commonly misspelled addresses. There is a new way to attach files and a new spell-checker that we think are much easier to use (especially if you were using Classic – no need to go to a new page to attach files anymore!). The text editor is completely rewritten, and we fixed a bunch of bugs – right-click now works!

Updated Calendar beta – If you aren’t using the Calendar beta yet, now’s a great time to try it. Calendar sharing, an automatically generated birthday calendar for people in your contact list, a holiday calendar, iCal subscriptions to public calendars, to-do lists, and much, much more await you. Go to http://calendar.live.com, or go to Hotmail and click Calendar under “Related places” to sign up.

There is more to this release that I haven’t yet mentioned, including greater speed and more powerful spam fighting, and even more improvements coming soon (but I’ll save those for a later post that my boss is going to do.)

If you haven’t used your Hotmail account in a while, check out the changes at http://mail.live.com. You can also sign up for a new account from there.

I think this version is a big improvement in both appearance and performance, so I hope you love it!

- Mike Schackwitz, Lead Program Manager, Windows Live Hotmail

Microsoft has been working on combining the "Classic” and “full” Hotmail experiences for years; in fact, their goal was to do so in the original revamp from a few years ago. But they got a lot of complaints from Hotmail old-timers. My guess is this won’t end.

Still, it looks great. I just wish I could use it.