Microsoft Offers Outlook/Hotmail Through Subscription - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Offers Outlook/Hotmail Through Subscription

The latest version of the email client is the first product within the popular Office productivity suite to be offered as a downloadable subscription service.

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday launched a subscription service that combines Outlook with its web-based Hotmail in the first package that ties the company's desktop software to a MSN service.

Microsoft Office Outlook Live includes Outlook 2003, making the latest version of the email client the first product within the popular Office productivity suite to be offered as a downloadable subscription service.

The move is important because Microsoft has struggled in getting consumers to upgrade their Office applications, which include Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more.

Sixty-one percent of PC users today use Office, but 75 percent of computer users have no intention of upgrading or using a productivity suite, according to JupiterResearch, a division of Jupitermedia Corp.

"Microsoft would like those people who have Office to move to another version, and would like to sell Office to those who don't have it," JupiterResearch analyst Joe Wilcox said. "While Microsoft is delivering some needed services here, it's also an Outlook seeding program."

The annual subscription service includes 2GB of online storage, the ability to send up to 20MB attachments and spam and virus protection. An introductory price of $44.95 is available through April 19. After that date, the service will cost $59.95 per year.

Besides offering a low-cost version of Outlook 2003, the service makes the email client a platform for using more of the company's web services, found on its MSN portal, on the desktop, Wilcox said. For example, Microsoft could decide to add instant messaging or its desktop-search application, released in beta in December. The latter could be used to search files in Outlook and in the desktop's hard drive, and could eventually be expanded to search MSN for products and services.

Because every Windows PC ships with Outlook Express, Microsoft could have easily leveraged the thinner version of Outlook for its new service. The fact that it didn't shows Microsoft has far more in store for its customers, Wilcox said.

"The service would have made the most sense for Outlook Express, but because Microsoft has other goals, it's defaulting to the flagship Outlook," Wilcox said.

For now, however, the service enables subscribers to set up multiple accounts for sending and receiving email and to manage separate calendars and contact lists, such as one for work and another for personal use. Changes made offline in Outlook, such as deleting messages, adding contacts or scheduling a meeting, are automatically updated in the subscriber's Hotmail account when they go online.

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