Microsoft's new Hotmail: Not a smooth transition for all

Summary:Microsoft rolled out to all of its Hotmail users the newest version of its Web-based e-mail program in early August. Since that time, a number of users have been reporting problems accessing and composing their mail when using the latest release.

Microsoft rolled out to all of its Hotmail users the newest version of its Web-based e-mail program in early August. Since that time, a number of users have been reporting problems accessing and composing their mail when using the latest release.

“During the Windows Live Hotmail rollout, we discovered some customers are having issues. We are working quickly to resolve these issues and apologize for any inconvenience this may be causing our customers. If a customer is experiencing an issue, they should check the Windows Live Solution Center to report their issue and find potential solutions," said a company spokesperson I contacted via e-mail.

Since the end of July, hundreds of numerous complaints have been added to the support forums. (Update: Users in the forum say there are hundreds, but it's hard to get a real count as Microsoft has restarted the support threads, claiming "technical difficulties.")

On August 10, company officials added to the forums a few suggestions to head off some of the issues.

Microsoft is advising users to try using browsers other than Safari 3 and Firefox 2 as a solution. According to Microsoft, the new Hotmail seems to be working well with:

* Internet Explorer 6.0+ on Windows * Internet Explorer 6.x * Internet Explorer 7.x * Internet Explorer 8.x (Standards mode) * Firefox 3.0+ on Windows and Macintosh * Safari 4.0+ on Windows and Macintosh * Chrome on Windows – latest major version

Microsoft is advising Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 users who are having viewing problems to make sure their high-contrast options are off. They're also asking Hotmail users experiencing problems to let them know which ISPs they are using.

I asked Microsoft officials whether they had any further plans to remedy the reported Hotmail problems. I was referred by a company spokesperson to this blog post announcing the availability of the new Hotmail to 350 million users. In that post, Microsoft Program Manager Mike Schackwitz says:

"We’ve already gotten lots of feedback, and we’ve already made some changes based on the feedback we’ve received – for instance, we no longer sign you into Messenger by default. We’ll continue to go through feedback, and we’ll continue to make improvements and updates. So, keep the comments coming and thanks for using Hotmail."

Hmm. So does that mean the Hotmail version that we Hotmail users are running now is not the final version, but a beta/test build? Microsoft takes pains to make it less-than-clear as to whether releases of its Windows Live services are in beta or final form. No word back from company officials yet on that point.

Update (August 11): I think the team is acknowledging that the worldwide rollout is not final and will be updated again before it is considered to be so -- which is good news for those unable to access their mail. However,it's hard to tell from this statement, delivered via a corporate spokesperson:

“As a web service, the Hotmail team will continue to make periodic updates based on customer feedback and its desire to be the most efficient email service. The blog post you referenced was written to share the global availability of a significant update to the new (Wave 4) Hotmail.”

I've had no problems accessing my new Hotmail account (using IE 8 or Firefox 3.6.8) and have found the new Sweep feature to be useful. Any other Hotmail users out there have specific problems to report?

Topics: Browser, Collaboration, Microsoft, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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