Microsoft rolls out major Windows Live Hotmail updates

A few days ago we announced that Microsoft was finishing up Wave 3 of Windows Live. The Windows Live Hotmail team has announced that it is officially rolling out the last of the Wave 3 updates to all Hotmail customers. So what's being shipped with these updates?

More Storage
Customers now start out with 5GB of storage, but what if you need more? Your storage capacity will automatically increase as you need it. The team hasn't announced what the maximum capacity will be.

More markets get POP3 access
Customers in the United States and Brazil will shortly be given access to their e-mail via POP3. All other Windows Live Hotmail customers will be receiving POP3 access in the coming weeks. Click here for more information on Windows Live Hotmail POP3 access.

Advertisements are less intrusive
After month of beta testers and customers complaining that the advertisement on the top of the reading pane, the advertisement has been moved to the right side of the reading pane.


Another new feature that is rolling out is "Quick Add". During Steve Ballmer's keynote, there was a short demo showing this new feature. So in case you missed the live stream, here we go.

Lets say that you're on vacation or a business trip and you just arrived to your destination. Your friends and family want to meet up later that night for dinner, but not everyone is familiar with the city. So you open Windows Live Hotmail and start preparing your e-mail with the time and place of your dinner affair, but you want to include the address and a link for directions. So you open up Quick Add while creating a new message.

Now you start your search for some nice restaurants for your affair. Once you've found your destination, you can either click "Insert" or "More Info". When you click "More Info" , you are brought to a Windows Live Search page. Once you've entered that page you will see a mapped location and some reviews if anyone has posted them. So now that you've picked your destination, you're ready to insert it into your e-mail by simply clicking "Insert".

So now you have the name, address, and more information ready for your friends and family. That is only one scenario that this new feature will be able to do. Consumers will also be able to search for business listings, videos, and images. The beauty of QuickAdd is that it's automatically loaded when you open a New Message, located on the right side of the message pane.

Other updates
If you've ever used Windows Live Homepage, you have probably became addicted to the "Whats New" feed. The "What's New" feed lists updates from your contacts that use social networks like Twitter, personal status messages, blog posts, shared favorites, and much more. So incase you're not a fan of the Windows Live Homepage but like the "What's New" feed, the Hotmail team has integrated it into the "Windows Live Hotmail Today" splash page when you login to your inbox.

There are 4 (that I can see) new themes for your Windows Live Hotmail inbox. The team has also updated existing themes to better suite its customers.

The last "officially" announced update is that you can now add a signature to your e-mails in HTML.

Now for the good stuff, which wasn't "officially" announced. Last week we covered a preview of Windows Live Web Messenger, which thousands of us have been waiting for for over a year now. Surprisingly it seems as if the official announcement left out Windows Live Web Messenger, but then again I recently spoke to a Microsoft employee who works on the Windows Live Help website who tells me:

"About the Integrated Web Messenger (add on) feature of Hotmail accounts, we can't give you a specific date as to when all hotmail accounts will be updated. I can tell you this though, right now, updates are being done as we speak (or in this case write, no pun intended). It won't be long now and all hotmail accounts would have been upgraded."

So if your account has access to Windows Live Web Messenger, let us know with some screenshots. Microsoft has noted that the updates mentioned above will be rolling out to all Windows Live Hotmail customers over the next few weeks, so if you're account doesn't have them you're not out of luck!

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