A couple of days back I got an invite from Microsoft to come see what they were doing with Hotmail. Though some of you might get the new feature immediately, the fully upgraded mail will be up in a few weeks. But the fact is that the changes have made Hotmail smarter
The first thing that seemed appealing was Active Views. You can now save time by managing your social networking accounts — from MySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook — watching videos embedded in your email without going to another website, viewing Flickr photo albums or even tracking and updating a package status in case you are using UPS or Fedex.
What is also nice is that now you can send up to 10 GB — yes, I said 10 GB — in a single email, given the receiver is also on Hotmail; other service providers are unlikely to accept such huge files. Actually the files are uploaded to SkyDrive, a free online storage service from Microsoft, so the recipient will get thumbnails of the photos with options to launch a slideshow or download all the images as a single zipped file.
Now, Hotmail also allows users to edit PowerPoint, Excel and Word documents in the Inbox, even if you don’t have Microsoft Office installed on your PC.
A problem for me is that I get a lot of unsolicited emails despite strict spam filtering. I use something called a Smart Filter on my Mac laptop to keep them out of my inbox, but now a similar feature called Sweep is integrated in Hotmail. Pressing Sweep will move/hide or delete emails from selected senders, thus helping you to manage your mailbox. For instance, if you have returned from a holiday, you can use Sweep to show just mail that is most important. You can also program Hotmail to do these sweeps automatically, thus saving time and helping you keep a clean inbox.
The new Windows Live Messenger built into Hotmail has a tabbed conversation window which allows you to easily chat with your friends and has smart features such as video conferencing and even supports High Definition video chat. The new Messenger also pulls in updates from all your social networking websites and video sites and integrates them for you in a single view.
What I loved most was that the new Hotmail and the Live Messenger now integrate pretty well on Windows Phones, iPhones and BlackBerrys. So everything from talking to your friends on the PC or your phone to emailing a document saved in your SkyDrive becomes easy.
Plus, you can also integrate Gmail, Yahoo some other mail ids to Hotmail, though you will need to buy premium services for some of them, and this means even your company mail.
This is truly the dawn of smart mail.
The Above review appeared in the Indian Express, on Sunday May 23, 2010