Last Sunday, Microsoft made an announcement about the official launch of Windows Live Hotmail, the new version of Hotmail that will be rolled out to all of their users over the coming days. This wasn’t big news, we’ve all known about the beta for a long time and covered it in detail in previous posts. However, there was one little bullet point in the press release that actually was big news to us email designers.
In the coming weeks, Microsoft will introduce an additional e-mail client option for Windows Live Hotmail with the release of Windows Live Mail beta, a free consumer e-mail client available via download that will be a successor to Outlook Express and Windows Mail on Windows Vistaâ„¢.
Holy crap! We’ve got a new email client to contend with people.
Windows Live Mail comes to the desktop
After some digging around, we tracked down an entire entry by Live Mail Program Manager Tanja Fournier about the new email client on the Live Mail blog. It’s always been a bit confusing to us. There was Outlook 2007, regular old Outlook Express, and then when Vista came we got Windows Mail. On top of this Microsoft have also been offering Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta from their Live Beta site since July 2006.
Thankfully, the press release points out that this new app will be the official successor to Outlook Express and Windows Mail on Vista, and will be built on the Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta foundations. This is great news, because this version in particular had seen loads of improvements since its release and was starting to shape up as a great desktop email client (pictured below).
The new app will feature plenty of decent features like easy synchronization of Hotmail and POP accounts between the desktop and web-based versions and a cleaner, faster interface. That’s all good and well, but what are the implications for us email designers and marketers?
Unsubscribe and spam complaint integration
Currently, Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta (pictured above) supports the Unsubscribe functionality we mentioned here last week, reducing the chance of false spam complaints and giving subscribers another way to unsubscribe from your lists.
The current beta also features integration into Hotmail’s junk mail feedback loop which already hooks directly into your Campaign Monitor reports. This means that we can report on any spam complaints made by Live Mail customers, whether they use the web or desktop version. Disappointingly, this option is off by default in the current beta, so let’s hope this is switched to the default option for the final version.
What about CSS support and image blocking?
We’ve done some CSS testing on the Live Mail Desktop Beta and can confirm that unlike Outlook 2007, it does in fact use Internet Explorer to render all HTML emails. This means it features almost perfect CSS support (yep, even position and float work nicely).
The problem here is, neither the press release nor blog post mention if this will continue with the new app coming in the next few weeks. Of course, given the fact that this release will be built on top of the Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta, there’s a very good chance the same rendering engine will be used. This is further backed up by the fact that Outlook Express and Windows Mail on Vista both use the IE rendering engine already. You can breath a tentative sigh of relief if you’re using CSS based layouts for business to consumer based emails.
Like Windows Live Hotmail (that’s the web-based version if it’s starting to get confusing), it appears that the desktop version will block images by default. We also noticed an option in the preferences to show images by default for any recipients in the safe sender list or the user’s contacts, following a similar path to the web-based version.
- The new Windows Live Mail (for the desktop) is shaping up to be Microsoft’s best email client yet for email designers and marketers. You’ve got to love great CSS support combined with List-Unsubscribe functionality and feedback loop integration for spam complaints.
- No news yet on how strongly Microsoft will be pushing the new email client, but if it’s delivered via Windows Update as a replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail for Vista and promoted to all Hotmail users, this client could quickly become one of the most popular in the world. Right now we’ll have to wait and see how they play this one out.
- Giving consumers only one free email client (Windows Live Mail) is way better than confusing them with a choice between 4 possible alternatives.
We’ve been in touch with Microsoft about getting our hands on a copy of the final version of Windows Live Mail, and will post an update here the moment we find out more.