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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Windows Live Mail (Video)

Wow, I found the new Windows Live Mail [WMV] really disappointing. At the moment, it’s an invite-only Hotmail upgrade.

First of all, it doesn’t work with Firefox – you need to switch to IE6 to get the new view. I only have IE7 on this system and gave it a try. Most things worked, but some things didn’t; I can’t open links in emails, for example. The search functionality also didn’t work. A long, long time ago, Beta used to mean “we think we fixed all bugs, but this is the first public testing so it’s likely more bugs will surface”. Microsoft, on the other hand, is releasing something as Beta which should have been an Alpha – “we know there are lots of bugs still, but take a look anyway.” (Add Google’s “eternal Beta’s” to the mix, and the big companies seem to make sure those disclaimers lose any meaning they might have had.)

More annoying than the bugs are the usability issues as well as the giant animated banner ads surrounding your inbox. They’re so noisy, I wouldn’t be able to read & write emails without getting a headache. As far as usability problems go, many things just don’t work as expected; clicking on “send us feedback” doesn’t show a feedback box. Clicking on the logo doesn’t take you home. At one point, while using the calendar, I didn’t even know how to return to my inbox. The calendar didn’t allow me to just click or double-click on the date I see to create a note, and so on.

Overall, like the rest of Microsoft’s, this seems to be a wannabe-hip answer to what Google is doing... in this case, a reaction to Gmail. Yahoo Mail did a much, much better job at bringing in some competition. Ironically, at the same time Microsoft doesn’t get the web, they’re losing out on their traditionally good desktop approaches as well (like their Windows Media Player).

[Thanks Markus Renschler.]


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