Hotmail has not had a major upgrade in years, but this is about to change. This morning, I had a peek at the new version of Microsoft Hotmail that will be made public this summer (July/August) and it comes with a number of improvements that makes web email nicer to use, but also much more efficient in some ways.
Hotmail will become smart enough to present data in a much more friendly way. For example, if you paste a YouTube video link, it will turn into a nicely presented preview that can be played directly from Hotmail, thanks to Silverlight (Microsoft’s competitor for Flash). And this doesn’t work only with videos or YouTube – it works with maps, web pages and photos as well. This presentation makes sharing intuitive, as email is still overwhelmingly used to casually share stuff. Other partner sites/services are supported and this is only the beginning as the architecture has been designed to add more overtime. One of my favorite is Hotmail’s ability to recognize an express delivery email and fetch the live data that shows where your package is.
Large image attachments are going to be more efficient too: in addition to the usual email attachments, users will be able to use SkyDrive (a Microsoft online storage service) to upload very large files or photos (up to 10GB). This means that there’s no worry that large files will clog the email system of the sender, or the recipient. Files can be set to expire after 30days (the default behavior), or to never expire. A perk that Skydrive offers is online collaboration by having several people edit the same document (possibly not at the same time) online.
Large files (photos, documents…) can be uploaded to Skydrive
Another important aspect of the new Hotmail is that Microsoft has implemented Exchange Active Sync, so it will be possible to sync Emails, but also Calendar and Contact information to any smartphone that supports Exchange. This is definitely not the complete list of features, but these are some of the most important ones.
The demos were fairly impressive and if you have an old Hotmail account that you don’t use, you might want to take the new update for a ride to get a feel for it. Don’t forget that it is also possible to use Hotmail to retrieve emails from another pop account.
A link to a SmugMug gallery turned into a Hotmail gallery
Random Hotmail stats (from Microsoft)
Sharing video search results from Bing
Sharing a Map
Another photo gallery
Sharing an online document to edit