Tech bloggers often dismiss Hotmail, Microsoft's webmail service, as an outmoded relic of the late '90s. However, it's still the world's most popular e-mail service, and the second most popular in the U.S. That's why the announcement that Microsoft is upgrading Hotmail to better compete with its Google counterpart, Gmail, is big news. Slated for release in July or August, here are some of its most alluring new features:

  • You Can Watch Videos in the Email! cheers Ryan Singel at Wired: "Hotmail will let you watch video links from Hulu and YouTube right in the e-mail you are reading, and you can easily find videos to send to people using a Bing search drop down box in the compose window."
  • Awesome Photo Features  Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch writes: "When you receive a message that has either photo attachments or links to an online photo album, Hotmail will use those photos to build a slick slideshow (it uses Silverlight). The service is even better for sending photos. Most email services aren’t great for sending photos, because they have a limit of 10-20 megabytes per message (and you also have to worry about whether the recipient’s service will allow for messages that large). Hotmail works around this by automatically uploading your images to Microsoft’s cloud storage service SkyDrive, which is free up to 25 GB. The resulting message looks great."
  • Nice Junk Mail Features, applauds Edward Albro at PC World: "These days, most true spam - Viagra ads and porn come-ons - gets caught before it ever gets to your inbox. But you still get semi-spam messages: newsletters that you signed up for, but then found weren't that useful or coupons from a store you no longer shop with. With a little work, you could figure out how to unsubscribe, but Hotmail's Sweep feature makes evicting them from your inbox much easier. You hover over the sender of a message and can choose to delete all messages, past and future, from that sender or, automatically move them to a different folder, if you want to keep them, but don't want them cluttering your inbox."
  • Enhanced Sorting, notes Gavin Clarke at The Register: "A feature called QuickView will filter emails according to how you've flagged them up for later action. You can filter out photos, Office documents or - strangely - updates from organizations shipping items that you've bought online. QuickView works by searching for indicators like certain words or links in the body of message."
  • It's Integrated with Microsoft Office, applauds Stan Schroeder at Mashable. "The new Hotmail is also integrated with Office Web Apps, meaning that you can edit documents directly from your inbox."