Hotmail, Outlook.com, and Windows Live Mail
With news that Hotmail is going away, all I could think was "Say it isn't so!" Despite having lived through the death of Eudora and the joke that is AOL mail and earlier e-mail services, I've always believed that e-mail was forever - a service that never, ever goes away like ice cream, the Olympics, and Spider-Man.
Hotmail has been around for a long time and even if it is just being rebooted to Outlook.com, the name Hotmail will always be associated as Microsoft's free e-mail. Sure, Hotmail never reached the heights that Yahoo's fabled e-mail service once did, but I always felt that it was a more dependable e-mail address. When Gmail was still getting started, I couldn't receive e-mail on my Gmail account during my stay in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Hotmail could. The largely under the radar rebranding of Hotmail to Live mail a few years back may not have turned heads, but it did improve the interface and e-mail service of Hotmail. Plus, after years without POP service (unless you "tweaked" your e-mail client), Microsoft released the excellent, free Windows Live Mail application to manage your Hotmail/Live account.
Yahoo, the other long-suffering e-mail service, is just plain bad. Saddled with an archaic and slow interface, an inability to filter spam, and an embarrassing rep, Yahoo mail will die without the dignity that Hotmail at least still has no matter how many Yahoo CEOs come and go. Let's face it, if you ask a girl their e-mail and she gives you her Yahoo e-mail address, you know she's NOT interested.
Now, having admitted to using Windows Live Mail and retaining my Hotmail for all these years, I'd like to say I'm not a Microsoft fan boy. In fact, I'm pretty glad that there's no such thing as Ubuntu-mail or Fedora-mail (though Ubuntu does have Ubuntu One) or I would have had to cancel my Hotmail years ago the same way I did with my Yahoo Australia account (which I signed up for only because Yahoo Australia used to provide free POP service years ago).
I certainly understand why Microsoft is playing its strongest cards by using the Outlook branding for their new and free e-mail service. I've worked in companies who live and die by their Outlook mailboxes. I've heard people claim that Outlook is Microsoft's best product, Excel, XBOX360, and Windows 7 be damned. But I have this sinking feeling that signing up for Outlook.com's free e-mail will make me allergic to opening my Inbox - the name Outlook conjures up thoughts of deadlines, projects, and threatening e-mails from managers and stakeholders. The name "Outlook" is certainly more creative than Gmail or Hotmail, but it's long in the tooth, too (and time has not made the name any sexier than it did when it was first introduced).
Hotmail was and is a great service especially when it was/is paired with Windows Live Mail. To be honest, I actually felt the transition rather than read it in the numerous articles online. My e-mailed blog posts for UnsolicitedButoffered sent from my Hotmail account via Windows Live Mail had been delayed for days. Now I know why. Microsoft had transitioned their e-mail servers to support the Outlook.com domain. My Hotmail account is now up and running again, but shortly after finishing this article, Windows Live Mail prompted me to log back in . . . and voila, I received an invite to Outlook.com Preview.
I must admit I'm curious what Outlook.com has to offer though I really don't need another e-mail address at the moment. In the meantime, stay hot Hotmail . . . and take a bow.