Windows Live Hotmail – an early look at some more improvements to come

mail_57641ef7 News We’ve seen Hotmail’s interface being upgraded to Wave 3, and we’ve seen the complaints about it. But little do we know, apart from a few hints from this blog post, that what we’ve seen is only half of what’s being worked on, and some of these new features actually addresses what some of us have complained about Hotmail all these times. So here it is, say hello to the upcoming new features of Hotmail:

POP Access

This had been a popular request. Microsoft have finally opened up Hotmail to POP access instead of clinging to their proprietary DeltaSync protocol. Users will not be forced to use Outlook (with Outlook Connector) or Windows Live Mail to access their Hotmail emails from their desktop clients anymore. Instead, any e-mail application that supports POP will be able to access emails in Hotmail accounts.

POP Aggregation

Previously only available to Premium subscribers, Hotmail will be allowing all users to import any other POP-enabled email accounts they have right from within Hotmail. This means users can finally import their Yahoo! Mail Plus, Gmail or AOL emails into Hotmail, all in one place. Hotmail will also provide options to allow users to filter emails from each of these accounts into a separate folder, or all into the same inbox.

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Instant Access

Remember the Hotmail blog mentioned about “some cool ideas about how to use the space where the favorites list [in classic version of Hotmail] used to be”? Well you no longer have to guess, as “Instant Access” is a new tool that takes up this space and “integrates Live Search into Hotmail, allowing users to find and embed search results such as Web images, restaurants reviews, maps, directions, or movie times into their email, without having to leave the Compose Email page.”

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Web Messenger Integration

Some time ago, we briefly told you about Windows Live Web Messenger being developed and under dogfood testing. Well, as we know some lucky readers are already using it, it is no longer a surprise that Web Messenger will be coming for all of us. Now you can IM straight from within Hotmail!

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What’s New Feed integration

After you have sent an email to a known contact in your contact list in Hotmail, the confirmation page will display the “What’s New” feed of that particular contact. It would be particularly useful to stay up-to-date with your contacts whenever you’re using a Windows Live service, as it seems like the “What’s New” feed is being implemented everywhere.

Ads Position Moved

Many people have been complaining how the ads in Hotmail really destroys the look of the Wave 3 themes and reduces your already-very-limited screen estate. No, they haven’t got rid of them, but there are some good news coming. In case you haven’t noticed from the above screenshots, Hotmail has finally decided to move the the top banner ad to the right column, and of course, it is now vertically positioned. Perfect for widescreen readers! We just hope that the ad will automatically resize according to your screen resolution, or it’ll just be as ugly as before. Words has it that the new Spaces will be having a totally ad-free look as well!

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Of course, there’s also the ever-increasing storage that can apparently “store planets”. And last but not least, the Hotmail team is also working hard on fixing many of the bugs that people may have had experienced, as they seemed to just realise a lot of users are still using 800×600 monitors.

Wave 3 Launch Timeline

So, you might ask, when will this be available to all users? Take a look at this timeline:

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To put us in context, we are currently somewhere between Phase 2 and Phase 3 (I’d say right after Phase 2). It is said that Web Messenger, What’s New feed, and Instant Access will be available in Phase 3, when the entire suite of Windows Live products (both online and offline) are released and out of beta (with the exception of Hotmail, Calendar and Movie Maker apparently). POP Access will be released in Phase 4, and POP Aggregation and “ever increasing storage” will be available in Phase 5. Sounds like a long road to go, but nevertheless this is good news for many users out there.