Microsoft sticks with Hotmail name

Despite plans to drop name as part of Windows Live shift, software maker opts for moniker that merges old, new Web strategies.

After months of planning to kill off the Hotmail name, Microsoft has decided to keep the venerable brand, as it works to overhaul its free Web e-mail service.

Microsoft said on Thursday that the revamped service, still in beta testing phase, is being renamed "Windows Live Hotmail" rather than the originally planned "Windows Live Mail." In a blog posting, Senior Product Manager Richard Sim said some people had found the name change confusing.

"As we prepare to launch the final version of our new Web mail service, we recognize the importance of ensuring that our 260-plus million existing customers come over to the new service smoothly and without confusion," Sim said. "By adopting the name 'Windows Live Hotmail,' we believe we're bringing together the best of both worlds--new and old. We're able to offer the great new technology that Windows Live has to offer, while also bringing the emotional connection many existing and loyal users have with Hotmail."

The move is the latest in a series of shifts designed to make the revamped service more friendly to existing Hotmail users.

Microsoft had planned to go with an all-new interface that bears more similarity to the company's Outlook software for business users than to Hotmail. The company has added a number of familiar elements back into the revamped service, such as check boxes for marking which messages to delete. In addition, Microsoft has added a classic view that looks even more like the old Hotmail.

More recently, Microsoft has decided to make that classic view the default, meaning those who want the revamped service will have to actively choose it.

Microsoft had always planned to allow existing users to keep their e-mail addresses. When Windows Live Hotmail launches later this year, customers establishing new accounts will be able to choose between having a or a address.

The move to the new mail service is part of the company's most significant overhaul of Hotmail, which it acquired in 1998. The service has maintained a loyal user base, but many new Web mail users opt for rival services from Yahoo and Google.

Microsoft had initially hoped to have a final version of Windows Live Mail out last year. So far, however, the service has remained in beta everywhere except the Netherlands, where it launched in November. The latest test version, M9, was released earlier this week.

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