Microsoft on Wednesday launched a beta of the new e-mail client designed to give the boot to Vista's four-month-old built-in Windows Mail.
Windows Live Mail Beta 2.0, touted by Microsoft three weeks ago as blending features from multiple Microsoft mailers, sports a Vista Aero look and claims faster performance than its predecessor, the now-defunct Windows Live Mail desktop. The program handles POP, IMAP and Windows Live Hotmail accounts, theoretically letting users combine multiple interfaces -- a browser for Hotmail, say, plus the venerable Outlook Express (OE) for POP mail -- with a single window. It runs on both Vista and Windows XP; in the latter, it ousts OE.
"[Windows Live Mail] sports a brand new [user interface] that's more aligned with what's being adopted across Windows Live," said Nick White, a Vista program manager, on that group's blog, giving one reason for the replacement. "Windows Live Mail will allow syncing with Windows Live Hotmail, serving as a client-to-service bridge."
Microsoft also pitched Windows Live Mail's (WL Mail) integration with other Live online services -- especially the company's instant messaging client (Windows Live Messenger), blog host (Spaces) and address book (Windows Live Contacts) -- as grounds for swapping out existing software. Left unsaid was why Microsoft wants to dump Vista's Windows Mail, a redo of XP's OE, just a few months after the new operating system reached consumers Jan. 30.
Microsoft, which has said it wanted to move more toward advertising-support applications, will not display ads in this beta, but White left the door open. "There will not be any graphical advertisements in Windows Live Mail at this time," he said.
Users should anticipate problems with the any beta, this one included, warned Microsoft's WL Mail team. By the messages posted to the new user-to-user newsgroup, setup may be a stumbling block; some who downloaded the beta reported that the install crashed or required several reboots.
OE and Windows Mail are left on the hard drive when WL Mail installs on XP and Vista, respectively, although the older programs' desktop shortcuts are replaced by the new application. If WL Mail is uninstalled, OE's and Windows Mail's shortcuts are restored.
The 15MB WL Mail Beta can be downloaded from Microsoft's Live site