Telstra has announced that it will move 4.2 million BigPond customers onto Microsoft's Windows Live email service.
The company has been considering the move since 2010, when it said that it was thinking about discontinuing the internal management of its email, blogging, photos and online-storage platforms for BigPond customers.
Telstra's executive director of Media, Applications and User Experience, JB Rousselot, said that 43 per cent of customers have told the telco they want more from email, but 53 per cent don't want to change their email address.
Customers will now have access to Microsoft's Hotmail service, as well as the Microsoft Office web apps, storage-service SkyDrive and Windows Live Messenger, as well as photo and movie editors Windows Live Photo Gallery and Windows Live Movie Maker. Customers will keep their email address and password, as long as the password has at least eight characters.
New customers will automatically receive the Microsoft service, while existing customers will be transitioned gradually throughout the year. Emails will transition automatically, and customers will receive instructions on how to migrate their photos, blogs and other applications. Telstra has provided how-to videos and FAQs to help customers, and will also take questions through its call centres and social-media channels.
"Our goal is to help our customers through the process, and make it as easy as possible for them, but we also understand that our customers may have a lot of questions or appreciate some guidance. With our call centre, and the online site, we are here to help," Rousselot said.
Many universities have also gone down the path of using Microsoft's email service as they try to do more with less. However, some students have been less than happy with having to sign agreements with Microsoft, and there have been concerns about where the emails are hosted, with Microsoft's datacentres being based in Singapore.
Telstra said that the emails would be hosted offshore but mirrored locally, and that its customers would not have to sign any agreements with Microsoft when they move onto the new services, however would have to sign new terms and conditions when they migrated. Telstra spokesperson Craig Middleton also said that Telstra's platform will still exist, with the company not shutting them down totally due to legal obligations.
Telstra has had a partnership with Microsoft since 2008, when it started offering its products over Telstra's T-Suite platform.
Updated at 12.41pm, 13 February 2012: Telstra clarified that the emails would actually be hosted offshore, not locally, but that the emails would be mirrored locally. The company also said that customers would have to agree to new terms and conditions before migrating to the service.