If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we’ve spent a lot of time talking about how consumers are using their email
and how they manage their inboxes
. We've also talked about how we decide what to build based on what we hear from customers
Today, we’re excited to give you a preview of the new Windows Live Hotmail, representing the next generation in personal email.
Email has changed a lot over the last five years. These days, you’re getting more email than ever – email that often requires you to leave your inbox to complete an action; you’re getting bigger and bigger attachments; and you’re using smart phones where you want to sync not only your email, but your contacts and calendar, too. In this post, we’ll talk about how we’ve built the new Hotmail, slated to launch this summer worldwide, to address the needs of the modern inbox.
See the new Hotmail in action! The changing inbox
To refresh our perspective on peoples’ email needs as of 2010, we spent a lot of time taking a close look at how people are using email both in Hotmail and in other email services today. We found a number of interesting things.
People send and receive more email than ever, but the types of email are changing.
In the past the inbox contained mostly mail from people you knew— your contacts. Today’s personal inbox is different. Mail from contacts is only a quarter of the typical inbox today; the rest of the inbox includes mail from social networks (20%), personal business (including newsletters, receipts, and shipping information), and “other mail” (which is typically junk mail or graymail). People made it clear to us that the number one thing they wanted their email service to address — whether it was Hotmail or any other email service — was to help them manage the clutter in their inbox; not just the spam, but all the mail they get that’s clogging their inboxes.
The content of email is different.
While many messages are still just text, most of today’s email includes photos, documents, links, or other attachments. On Hotmail alone, people send and receive more than 1.5 billion photos and 350 million Office documents every month. What this means is that people have to leave their inboxes more and 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.
People want to stay in touch on their phones and on the go.
As we all know, people are doing more with smart phones than they ever have in the history of mobile communications. Expectations for mobile email are at their highest and include not just email, but also calendars, contacts, and tasks.
These changes were a call to action for our team. We knew we had an opportunity not just to add more features but to design our service with these new inbox needs in mind. So we set out to redesign Hotmail to help you:
Take back your inbox
- Take back your inbox. We help you quickly get to the important messages and get rid of the mail you don’t want.
- Get more done with the mail you receive. Do more without leaving your inbox, so that you don’t have to open a bunch of browser windows just to get simple things done.
- Share over email. Stop hassling with attachment size limits – whether you’re sending hundreds of large photos or massive documents. View, edit, and share Microsoft Office documents even if you or the people you’re sharing with don’t have Office installed on their computers – PC or Mac.
- Connect from your phone. Sync your email, calendar, and contacts on your mobile devices – whether you’re using a smart phone like the forthcoming Windows Phone 7,or the iPhone, or a phone that just has a simple browser.
With the new Hotmail, we’ve introduced practical innovations to help people manage the clutter and regain control of their inboxes – efficiently. What's more, you can manage clutter not only in your Hotmail inbox, but also in your inboxes from other email services like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail Plus, or AOL, all from within Hotmail.
The moment you log into the new Hotmail, you can see at a glance that you now have a convenient and concise summary of the most important mail in your inbox - new email from friends and contacts, social network updates, shipping notices, appointments, and birthday reminders - along with a conveniently consolidated, privacy-protected stream of photos and updates from your closest friends on Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter, and over 70 other websites. The new Home page even lets you post comments directly to some of these sites and update your Facebook status. Of course, if you want to skip this page and just go straight to your inbox, there's a link at the bottom of the page so you can easily do that.
Once in your inbox, cut through the clutter by clicking just once to see all the mail from your contacts, or all of your social network updates (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.), or mail from the group mailing lists you belong to. You can also click once to see all messages that have links to photos or photos attached, or all messages that have Office documents attached, or shipping updates, or messages you’ve flagged.
Sweep away clutter.
Once you’ve gone through the messages you want, it’s time to get rid of the ones that you don’t want. We know how to keep “true SPAM” out of your inbox
, but we also know you still get a lot of other mail in your inbox that you don’t want. We call this "graymail" – legitimate mail that you signed up to receive or agreed to receive at one point, but you no longer want. The new Hotmail gives you the first and only virtual broom in any inbox out there, letting you sweep the mail you don’t want right out of your inbox – all in just a couple of clicks. No need to go to the trouble of creating and managing complex rules. Just sweep unwanted mail into folders for safe keeping or the trash for deleting, leaving your inbox clean and organized. You can even tell Hotmail to sweep incoming messages automatically on an ongoing basis (until you tell Hotmail otherwise) by simply checking a box. You can also sweep your Gmail and Yahoo! Mail Plus inboxes, too. Just add them into your Hotmail account and sweep the clutter from those accounts as well.
Get more done in your inbox
Now that you’ve got control of your inbox, we're also helping you get more done with the mail you get. This starts with Hotmail Active View – an automatic preview that brings your email to life. We're currently focusing Active View on giving you more ways to interact with messages you receive containing photos, links, and documents.
We know that email is still the most popular way to share photos. With the new Hotmail, we automatically show you a preview of your photo attachments, and let you view them as a slide show in a single click. No more leaving your inbox or complicated opening and saving – just click and view. It’s the way email should work. What’s even better is that this works not just for photo attachments, but also for photos shared through links to sites like Flickr and SmugMug.
For sharing photos, we’ve gone a step further and helped to break through the limits of past email. Increasingly, photos are larger and larger, and yet sending big email attachments can clog the inboxes of your friends and family. With Hotmail, we’ve combined the simplicity of sending photos through email with the power of Windows Live SkyDrive
so that you can send up to 200 photos, each up to 50 MB in size, all in a single email. You can send all your vacation photos at once without worrying about attachment limits. Your photos are effortlessly transformed into an online album and your recipients will get a gorgeous email that lets them see all the photos no matter what email service they're using. They can view a slide show, download some or all of the photos, make comments, tag their friends, and even add their own photos. If you’re using Windows, you can even download the photos directly into Windows Live Photo Gallery
for advanced photo editing and management made easy.
Documents work just like photos. If you receive a document, you can now open it with the full power of the new Office Web Apps, right in Hotmail. Just click and view. Just as you do with photos, you can send up 200 Office documents of up to 50 MB each. Send PowerPoint presentations embedded with videos, Word documents rich with images, and more.
With the new Hotmail, you can attach an Office document to an email and have it stored on SkyDrive. Hotmail then sends the document via SkyDrive, so that you – and the people you send it to – can access it from anywhere regardless of whether they use a PC or Mac, have Office installed, use Hotmail or don't, or have smaller attachment limitations than the 10 GB per message allowed by Hotmail. No more worrying about whether that document is stored on the computer you have with you, the computer you use at the library at your office, in your dorm room, or elsewhere.
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.
Shipping updates, social updates, photos, and videos.
Thanks to the many fantastic partners we’re working with, people using Hotmail can save time and get more done right in the individual messages they receive, whether they're connecting to someone on LinkedIn, watching a video sent from YouTube or Hulu, or tracking a shipping notification. Suddenly, your email inbox is getting a lot richer and giving you new ways to be more productive online.
Get your mail, calendar, and contacts anywhere you go
Now that you’ve taken back your inbox and done more with your mail, we want to make sure you can get to it from anywhere. Hotmail supports push email on the web, PC, and now also on the mobile phone. Using Exchange ActiveSync, available on nearly 300 million phones, you can not only seamlessly synchronize Hotmail between your phone and the web, but you can also synchronize your calendar, contacts, and tasks.
We know not all phones are smart phones, and so we also built a mobile experience optimized for rich browsers and touch screens, so that your experience feels the same on all the latest phones. The mobile inbox supports filters, in-line message previews, HTML messages, offline e-mail viewing, conversation threading, the ability to flag messages, the option to show or hide message header details, and more. You can also manage invitations received via Hotmail, set reminders, aggregate multiple calendars, or share a calendar with friends and family, and do it all from your phone's web browser.
And there’s a whole lot more….
In this post we covered a few highlights of the new Hotmail and in follow-up posts we’ll go into more depth on other areas that we invested in, including enhanced account protection, full-session SSL, multiple email accounts, subfolders, contact management,
and ever-growing storage
The new Hotmail
The way people “do email” has changed a lot and continues to evolve. We designed the new Hotmail with this evolution in mind, so you can easily get the clutter out of your inbox, save time getting through your email, and view and edit photos and Office documents in your browser. In the coming weeks, we’ll start rolling out the new Hotmail broadly to our customers. You can also learn more about the upcoming Hotmail release at www.hotmailpreview.com
We built Hotmail for you and the way you work today. We look forward to sharing this with all of you soon and getting your feedback!
Group Program Manager for Windows Live Hotmail