Where is Windows Live Hotmail going?

In recent weeks Yahoo Mail has been getting a lot of attention and for the right reasons. First it was their decision to provide all Yahoo Mail users with unlimited storage. With Windows Live Hotmail currently offering 2GB (4GB to Hotmail Plus coming soon), and Gmail offering close to 3GB, its undoubtably more of a symbolic gesture than anything else. It does however raise questions around how much storage should be provided for free in a Windows Live cloud storage service: 5GB, 10GB, 20GB or 50GB?

The Yahoo Developer blog also announced the Yahoo Mail Web Service, an open set of APIs for 3rd party developers to build tools or applications around Yahoo! Mail. The Windows Live Hotmail APIs are still missing in action, though they have been talked about briefly. What drew my attention was the $10 commission for each new Yahoo Mail Plus account that is referred by developers. Would providing more incentives encourage Windows Live developers? Progress in this area seems to be slow, so something needs to seize the imagination of the developer community – maybe Mix07 will do just that.

So the key question is when will Windows Live Hotmail finally launch? An email sent to some UK beta testers at the end of last week said the following:

“Windows Live Hotmail is currently in its last phase of beta testing and we are looking to launch the new and improved Windows Live Hotmail in the next few weeks.”

While most testers won’t really be too bothered about the service losing its beta tags, the implications of a v1 rollout are quite important. Moving millions of users to the new service will takes time and resources, meaning that new development will likely be slower. On the upside, maybe we’ll finally see @live.com email addresses officially available :)

And while I was writing this post, Ellie from the Mail blog just linked to some positive commentary from PCWorld about M10, though they seem to be rather generous with their stars. Two points that jumped out at me from the first paragraph was them giving praise for a) returning to a 12 year old product name b) adding in the IM feature that has been in MSN Hotmail for a while. With Yahoo! Mail Beta looking to lead the way for webmail services, lets hope that Windows Live Mail doesn’t drop off the pace during this v1 launch phase.