A few years back, Google entered the web-based email market with its product "Gmail". Though not formally offerred for public use, invitations to join its Beta testing became so widespread that it might has well have been a free-for-all.
Despite all this, and numerous offers to join Gmail, I stuck it out with my Hotmail account, one that I have had since 1997. There is no doubt in my mind that Gmail is the superior product - more storage space and a search function see to that. For me, though, the switching cost (well, effort really) of moving my contacts and stored emails from one to another, as well as informing all and sundry of my new address, made it too much effort. Besides, I concluded naively, the free market should surely dictate that Hotmail would have little choice but to add on the services that Gmail was offering in order to stem the tide of Hotmail refugees.
Yesterday upon logging in to my Hotmail account, I thought for a moment that my patience would be rewarded: I was invited to participate in a Beta testing for a 'new and improved' Hotmail (nothing particularly exclusive about it, since I presume participation is open to all users). Finally, Hotmail was making it's move.
Alas not. The new Beta-testable Hotmail is a regression from where Hotmail was previously, and involves a misguided attempt to merge Microsoft Outlook with Hotmail. The web-based Outlook is slow, clunky, and cluttered and barely usable. The problems with the new version are so fundamental that there is no way that this product could become the mainstream Hotmail product without severe reengineering. Or starting again.
Whilst the weaknesses of the new product are several, I think I'll start with a top five:
1. Inability to move multiple emails from one folder to another, or to mass delete them.
2. The strange attempt to search through my address book each time I type an address in the "To:" field, a process which slows down the entry of data to about one character per three seconds.
3. The massive tower ad and banner ad which occupy 40% of the screen.
4. The inability to include a standard 'signature' in each outgoing email.
5. The constant "Working on your request" message each time a simple request is made.
After less than 24 hours I've reverted back to the old-style Hotmail (which itself is a long way from perfect). If this is the best that the collective minds at Microsoft can come up with, I think I'll do my best impression of a West Papuan and head out on the boat.
Anyone else have any thoughts on the email war?