It's people like Marc that actually make me feel less cynical about the underlying intentions of Microsoft as a giant global conglomerate. I was fascinated that his entire work model was based solely on the customer, which is really important because we
are likely to see much higher quality software from Microsoft in coming years. I think the user-centric idea is one that is universally applicable because at the end of the day its the users/customers that keep companies in business.
First things first, I have to congratulate the Microsoft team for finally committing a decent effort to reinvigorating the ageing, cumbersome Hotmail service. For the record, I make frequent use of Google’s Gmail because of its relative simplicity and speed.
I am looking for reasons to switch back to regular Hotmail use, though the current service is just not reflective of my needs because its interface is confusing with features buried scores of clicks away, its speed can be likened to a cure for insomnia,
and its storage/attachment management is lacking in comparison to similar services. The lack of Outlook access is also a disappointment.
At the top of my list of wants for the new service are as follows:
Speed à This is an absolute necessity and I’m pleased that the video shows significant inroads into this problem through use of AJAX and C# etc.
Efficiency à This is applicable primarily to the interface. I like the influence of Outlook in the beta, as Outlook 2003’s interface has been well-received and is much simpler for viewing email and completing other tasks. Common tasks definitely
need much fewer clicks and cool features need to be obvious to the user, not buried in scores of menus.
Non-intrusive Advertising à While most users understand the necessity of ads for the maintenance of this free service, the current model needs a complete rethink. It’s just not attractive to have flashy, buzzing and noisy ads while you’re trying
to read email, and frankly, it detracts from the whole experience. Google’s text-based solution makes a lot of sense, and is certainly better, though I’m quite confident that Microsoft is competent enough to implement its own intelligent advertising solution.
Better Attachment Management àSince the video hints at 2GB inboxes and 10MB attachments, the sending of attachments needs to be simplified and sped up. It would be great to see the Outlook 2003 feature of automatic resizing of large
images included, as some people don’t want to send full-size 5, 6 or 7 megapixel images due to bandwidth restraints. It would also prove helpful to have more user feedback in terms of what percentage of the attachment has been uploaded, as current solutions
(even from Gmail) are rather vague in this respect.
Standards Compliance àWith millions of internet users and a variety of browsers, there is no legitimate reason why Hotmail should only be fully compatible with Internet Explorer. Like it or not, IE is not commanding the lead it once
was prior to Firefox; though the promising improvements and additions to IE7 may change that. Though, the Hotmail service is more appealing to the broader user base if it can be accessed with other browsers.
Security àYou may question why security is so far down the list, but in my opinion, there have been large inroads into spam and virus circumvention in Hotmail recently. There is obviously room for improvement, however. It would be
wise to change the domain name of all users to immediately reduce spam levels in conjunction with improved security in Kahuna. Anyhow, the “hotmail” brand has become synonymous with spam, viruses and phishing despite the recent additions to hotmail security;
thus, changing it would definitely alter its public perception. On the other hand, a name change certainly risks alienating customers if it isn’t marketed properly.
Transparency àThe new features of the current Hotmail service introduced last year were sporadically implemented with consumers having little prior knowledge concerning their development. I think it’s definitely wise for Microsoft
to be more forthcoming about product and feature development so it can be seen as being innovative and constantly changing. A Hotmail sandbox feature similar to that of the MSN version, which demonstrates upcoming features in beta form would give consumers
opportunity to give useful feedback. But, having said that, the MSN sandbox is comparatively scarce in comparison to what’s available in competitors’ similar offerings.