Hotmail might be getting a revamped image in Microsoft's new fight against Yahoo and Google, but key features are still missing.
New features for Hotmail include a new way of organizing e-mail from different sources. Messages from contacts, social networks, spammers and retailers will all appear in different sub-folders when users log in to the new system.
Users will also have access to a 25 Gb per user "SkyDrive" to store files and share them with friends.
Users will be able to sort through media that lands in their inboxes more easily. But this feature is also where Microsoft's new Hotmail product breaks down, according to some reviewers.
Hotmail will enable a new viewer that will enable one-click viewing of picture files, videos and Microsoft Office files. Using Microsoft's own Silverlight system - a way of viewing multimedia on the Internet similar to Adobe Flash - users will be able to immerse themselves in many attachments sent by their friends without downloading.
But Microsoft is limiting viewer to formats originating in the Microsoft eco-system. That means that while users can easily flip through MS Office documents or photos, other popular formats like PDF or even .txt files are not supported. Users will have to download those files and open them separately.
Hotmail, already almost 15 years old, is among the oldest free e-mail offerings on the Web. Yahoo! Mail is the most popular web-based free e-mail provider in the U.S., followed closely by Hotmail.
Google's Gmail is a relatively distant third place, though many of the enhancements being launched by Hotmail will already be familiar to its users.