Microsoft previews new version of Hotmail

Microsoft has previewed a new version of Windows Live Hotmail which boasts integration with the online capabilities of Office 2010, photo sharing functionality and tools to manage social network updates.

The company said that Hotmail users send and receive more than 1.5 billion photos and 350 million Office documents every month, and that 20 per cent of email received by Hotmail users is from social networks.

"What this means is that people have to leave their inboxes more often in order to complete common tasks like accepting social network invitations, viewing photo albums and videos, tracking packages, making purchases, tracking travel itinerary updates and more," said Windows Live Hotmail group programme manager Dick Craddock in a blog post.

Microsoft explained that the new version of Hotmail harnesses the storage capabilities in its SkyDrive service to allow users to open document attachments with the new Office Web Apps element of Office 2010.

"You can also start working with these documents using Office on your PC and have your changes automatically saved back to SkyDrive. SkyDrive will also track and store older versions of the document so that you can revert to prior versions if you want to," said Craddock.

Hotmail will automatically allow users to preview photo attachments and view them as a slide show in a single click. The SkyDrive storage capabilities will allow users to send up to 200 photos, each up to 50MB in size, in a single email.

Microsoft explained that the new preview capabilities are part of its Active View feature.

"We are currently focusing Active View on giving you more ways to interact with messages you receive containing photos, links and documents," said Craddock.

The new Hotmail will also offer new ways to filter inboxes according to where messages are from. Users will be able to choose to have messages delivered to different files under a 'Quick View' section on the left of the screen, depending on whether the messages are social network updates, from group mailing lists or have links, photos or Office documents attached.

Hotmail will use Exchange ActiveSync to offer enhanced synchronisation with smartphones for email, calendar and contacts. Microsoft will also provide the new mobile experience to users of rich browser and touch screen mobile phones.

Microsoft promised further capabilities, including enhanced account protection, multiple email accounts and additional storage.

Meanwhile, Apple iPad users have been having problems accessing Hotmail. Microsoft said that it is working with Apple to understand and fix the problem as soon as possible.

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