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Microsoft tweaks Hotmail interface to read Gmail accounts

Now, if only the damn thing would work

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Microsoft has caved in to customers who prefer to use Google’s Gmail rather than the software vendor’s Hotmail offering, by making Mountain View’s online email available via its own web portal.

In the latest in a series of hit-and-mostly-miss tweaks to Hotmail, Redmond said yesterday that it was rolling out tech that lets users add accounts from other web email services, including its two biggest rivals: Yahoo! and Gmail.

Effectively, Microsoft has slotted a functionality that has been present in its Outlook software client for many years into Hotmail.

Moreover, MS acknowledged that while most people have more than one online email account, they typically use one for juicy gossip and life-affirming messages and the other as a kind of glorified spam landing page for all those pesky websites customers have to sign up to.

However, Microsoft’s Hotmail product manager Dan Craddock preferred to say that the firm’s customers wanted access to the new features without having to sign up for a new email address, rather than publicly confessing that Hotmail is where junk sales messages go to die.

Craddock said: “We understand. You already have at least one email address and you probably don’t need another.

“You may also use your existing address for things other than just email, such as signing in to online shopping sites, which makes changing even more challenging.

"Also, you might have an address that you really like, but a similar name might not be available on another email service. So we looked for a way to make it easier for people to give Hotmail a trial run.”

As a result the Hotmail interface can now be used with any existing email address, just like its Outlook desktop software.

“Implementing this was fairly straightforward given the architecture of Hotmail, our POP aggregation support, and the ‘Send As’ feature that lets you send mail from any validated email address. We just needed to tweak the way we store and look up email addresses, build the first-run experience, and we had it.”

Microsoft is hoping that users will sign up to the service, and it claimed that 30 million people had already registered their non-Hotmail email address when logging in via a Windows Live ID to use Xbox, Zune, SkyDrive, or Messenger.

But for the past three days, some Hotmail users (Microsoft claims around 1 per cent of people are affected) have been unable to access their email accounts due to an unspecified problem with the service.

Surely this has nothing to do with the latest fancy feature to be added to Hotmail, does it? ®

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