Hotmail’s 2GB & Webmail Wars

According to an article on PC Magazine:

Microsoft launched its MSN Hotmail Plus subscription service in 30 markets worldwide today. The upgraded service, as announced in June, offers subscribers, for $19.95 a year in the US, 2GB of storage, the ability to send 20MB attachments, no account expiration, and no graphical advertising.

That is 4 cents saving over Yahoo! Mail Plus but then you don’t get all of Yahoo! premium services. The biggest differentiator is that Hotmail simply doesn’t POP mail and nothing I’ve read indicates they’re going to add that feature.

Another interesting fact was that the earlier report last month that Hotmail would upgrade it’s mail quota to 250Mb is also true. I had become confused about that recently. That apparently applies to free users, meaning Hotmail will offer 150 Mb more than Yahoo! to free users. That is quite significant. However, Hotmail will launch their upgrades in a controlled, phased manner with MSN Hotmail Plus rolling out first.

My experience and conversations over the last month have indicated that very few users will switch just because of the extra space at Hotmail or Gmail for that matter. The general credibility and ease-of-use rating of Hotmail seems to be pretty low. Yahoo! on the other hand has been making significant upgrades to their services. Their marketing and PR teams have been performing extremely well in making sure the word goes around. Plus, their integrated services are far more powerful and intuitive to use than any other service provider.

The latest salvo from Gmail has been the launch of 3 new features:

  1. Import Contacts
  2. Signature options
  3. Safari browser support

Of these, #1 is the most significant. Now those users who were holding back because they did not have their Address Book at Gmail can easily import it from Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, etc. and start using Gmail’s advanced auto-complete feature. Oddly, Yahoo! Mail has recently launched its version of auto-complete but it is actually a standalone application that must be downloaded and installed on the PC before it can be used with the webmail interface. Quite a chore for people on the move esp. if the user does not have installation rights in newer Windows environments.

For some reason, only Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail are being referred to as the major providers in this. As I noted earlier, an Indian company Rediff has also increased their free email quota to 1GB (1024 Mb). I also noticed that they have upgraded their interface a bit from the atrocious and nightmarish one that they had a few months ago though I’m not sure when they did that.

The webmail wars are hotting up and once Gmail formally launches and the dust settles, the eventual beneficiary will be the common web user. All good. :)

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