Microsoft currently offers POP3 access for $19.95 per year as part of its Hotmail Plus service. Rumours posted on several Windows Live forums this week and Ars could indicate that POP3 access is about to drop for all hotmail users at no additional cost.
Microsoft is expected to make some Windows Live announcements at CES. There are rumours of the final versions of the Windows Live Client wave 3 applications being released and it's possible that free POP3 access is one of the announcements.
Forum poster "cebcubs" posted a question to the Windows Live Help forums on December 31st 2008 asking "I read online that a few of the features of Hotmail Plus (namely, POP3 feature) will be available in early 2009. Does anyone know for sure if this statement is true?". A Microsoft spokesperson identified as "Windows Live Israel" confirms the rumour and states "Yes, cebcubs, there is a plan on releasing POP3 to free Hotmail account users. However, we still do not have a definite date on when this will happen. We'll keep everyone posted once the feature becomes available."
The Consumer Electronics Show is a perfect launching surface for such a service and POP3 access for Hotmail has become a much requested feature of Microsoft's popular web mail service.