Microsoft Building New Free Mail Client

Internet Explorer isn't the only application to enjoy a resurgence in Windows Vista -- Microsoft is readying a new desktop e-mail client that will be integrated into Windows Live and eventually replace Outlook Express. Dubbed Windows Live Mail Desktop, the product is currently in beta testing.

As IE development stagnated following the release of Windows XP, Outlook Express -- Microsoft's free e-mail client -- suffered a similar fate. But the OE team returned to update the product for Vista under the name Windows Mail, and is now expanding that work with a completely separate application.

Windows Mail in Vista brings to the table evolutionary improvements to Outlook Express 6, including an integrated spam and phishing filter, community features for Microsoft newsgroups and built-in spell checking. The client has also been linked up with Vista's contact database and search functionality.


However, much has changed in the Internet landscape since OE6 debuted in 2001. RSS and blogging have begun to spread, and users are spending more time utilizing Web based services now that broadband has reached ubiquity. Microsoft unveiled Windows Live last year to help usher in this new era.

Windows Live Mail Desktop will fill the role of connecting the operating system with a number of Live services. The client directly connects with Windows Live Mail without configuration, and integrates Live Messenger contacts directly into the interface.

A "Photo Mail" feature takes pictures from a digital camera and resizes them for e-mails, while uploading a larger version to MSN. For those not using Live Mail, the desktop client supports any POP or IMAP e-mail account, with support for multiple inboxes.

Aside from e-mail, RSS also plays a major role in Windows Live Mail Desktop. The software can serve as a complete RSS reader, enabling users to organize subscriptions using folders, instantly see unread items, and view items in a built-in preview pane.

Users can also click on an RSS item and immediately blog about it using the new "Blog It!" feature.

"Blogging and RSS looks like they're here to stay and phishing is more dangerous than ever. Now is the time to add life back into my favorite free email client and we're injecting a large dose of adrenaline to kick things back up," says Live Mail Desktop developer Lei Gong.

Other improvements being added to the client according to Gong include a redesigned user interface, emoticon and inline spell checking, and automatic syncing with Hotmail contacts.

Microsoft has not yet said how it plans to position Windows Live Mail Desktop or when the new client will be completed. Windows Mail in Vista will not be replaced before the new operating ships later this year, indicating that Live Mail Desktop will be offered as a free download for users seeking out added functionality.

A beta version of the software will be made available through in the coming weeks, according to the Live Mail Desktop team.

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