So, the concept of E-mail is not old, yet it does keep evolving in ways that creep up on you. I would say this is definately a good thing.
I’ve owned my many domains over the years with various flavors of email server backends for my personal mail. There have always been various issues that have left me less than happy about the service. I would say this is not from the service offering, but for the lack of total immersion into how I personally use E-mail.
In the beginning there were unix shell accounts with Pine and Elm, which I had used. Then I graduated to using Eudora with a POP3 email client. After growing up, and getting a taste of enterprise class email and using Exchange, I knew that there were better ways (That way is NOT Lotus Notes BTW). This led me to using an IMAP server to keep my personal email in check, since POP3 does not scale well for someone with multiple computers, since it is not a sycnhronize solution for email. The problem with IMAP is that when working in a corporation, many companies do not proxy IMAP through a firewall so using fat clients is out of the question. So this leaves you using a web mail based interface for most things. I had originally liked the hotmail interface for it’s simplicity, and because pretty much any nonIT person could be pretty efficient in it.
Most public solutions offer POP3 access to your E-mail, though some have now started to charge for this as an "advanced" service. I believe that is because they want to keep you in their web interface where your eyes are on advertisements, which makes sense to me. Nothing is free in the end. I have had problems setting up these POP solutions for people with multiple computers because it really is a pain to keep the mailbox in sync.
So sometime last year I was thrilled to see that MS was offering Windows Custom Domains, offering advertised supported email, for those that have their own domain. This is something I had wanted to do for years, since I have always been impressed with the hotmail spam filtering compared to my other third party solutions. After switching over to the Hotmail interface for my mail domain was nice, but moving to the Windows Live Platform was better. Yet I still had the problem of how to read email offline since WLM is a web based solution, there is no way to read WLM in offline mode. If you are a traveler, and are forced to spend countless hours on a plane, it would make a good email catchup time if you could take it with you that is. This is where I see a serious flaw with services like GMAIL which seem to offer POP3.
Now you can because WLMD (Soon to be "Windows Live Mail Center" I believe) since it can sync your WLM account (and other POP3/IMAP) accounts so you can view them offline in a nice interface. Another joy I discovered, because the sync protocol is over HTTP it scoots right through a firewall, so you can use a fat client at work to read your mail.
The built in RSS reader is a nice touch, but I have to say it is missing a big piece of the puzzle with multiple computers. It would be nice to store my feed definitions on my live.com account and be able to view them in WLMD. More importantly, the ability to sync read/unread status for the articles in the feeds is required. After using the combo of FeedDemon and Newsgator for RSS feeds which allows me to synch feed status across multiple computers, I find it hard to not have this ability. Otherwise I am managing my feeds on each and every machine I am on.
I should mention I love the new live contacts. I have always struggled with keeping a consolidated address book across many apps, and have even had my own LDAP directory to be used by apps. So far the ability to have Live contacts work across multiple services is awesome.
So overall, it’s still beta, but I am thrilled to have the ability to use a fat client for email at work, and the ability to read my mail offline when I am traveling. For once in a great long time, I am approaching having my ultiimate email solution making my mail/contacts availiable online and offline, and universal with web access.
It seems that WLM is more of an extension of Outlook Express on XP, and Windows Mail on Vista, as it adopts much of the core technologies and features of the base client. The experience on XP and Vista, while similar, the Vista experience is more feature rich so far due to the newer mail client. When I heard MS was coming out with 3 mail clients, I was a bit confused. They will have Windows Mail (Outlook Express’s son), Windows Live Mail center (WLMD), and Outlook 2007. Obviously the Outlook 2007 is primarily focused toward enterprise email, but the 2 consumer clients were interesting. It appear that because WLMD rides on Windows Mail it makes more sense to me.
So things I like:
- Syncing over HTTP to go over a proxy
- Offline Sync Ability
- Integration with Live Contacts. I can truely have a universal contact store across multiple apps and machines
- Better searching across mail accounts
- Speed of client for reading hundreds of messages quickly
- Spam/Phishing support which is across all mail accounts setup
Things that need improvement so far in the current build:
- It needs better integration with Live Messenger. I’d like presence awareness for my contacts or people who send me mail ala Outlook 2003
- Gmail does have nice "tagging" ability, which I think would be useful. Though with the current search ability I am starting to doubt the need for this.
- Better RSS support for storing my feed definitions centrally and synching read status across machines
- Add touch up issues like "Catch-Up" ability in the GUI for Newsgroups and RSS feeds.
- Better mail sorting ability to have a "Group By" functionality to organize threads in mail
- Color coding of recipients which I think could be part of the Messenger integration
- Is there going to be a Windows Live Calendar? If so it needs to be in WLMD!
- Integrate better junk mail controls into WLMD for identifying junk mail by the user. Right-click "Mark as Junk Mail"