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WebTV grappling with email problem

Many users of Microsoft's WebTV are experiencing delays receiving their email. The problem marks the software giant's continued woes with its Internet products, which also have included Hotmail outages.

WebTV's email service was hit by delays all weekend, the company confirmed today, a not unfamiliar situation for Microsoft.

Microsoft's WebTV subscribers were unable to access emails sent immediately over the weekend, the company said, with some users complaining of total email outages. The downtime was a result of problems resulting from upgrades to WebTV's mail servers, according to the company.

"We recently upgraded our mail servers to handle more capacity, but we tried to send out mail at a faster rate than the new servers had capacity for," a WebTV spokeswoman said. "We're still tweaking the mail server configuration."

The delays began in the middle of last week and were resolved this morning, according to WebTV.

The problems are the latest black eye for Microsoft and its email services. The software giant's Hotmail free email service has taken heat for a major security glitch which allowed widespread access to Hotmail accounts. In addition, Hotmail users have reported repeated outages this year.

WebTV users will not be reimbursed for the weekend without access to their email, the spokeswoman said, because WebTV does not have such a policy in place. The delays also do not technically qualify as an outage, she added.

"There's always an inconvenience and we apologize for that," she said, but "it never stopped. It just got quite slow." However, some WebTV customers reported that they were without access to their email all weekend.

"Messages sent through WebTV are arriving hours, even days late, both coming and going," one user complained.

WebTV, based in Mountain View, California, provides TV services for set-top boxes, satellite products, and other TV-related devices. Microsoft uses WebTV technologies in the Microsoft TV software platform.

Microsoft bought WebTV in 1997. It counts some 900,000 users and plans to have 1 million users by the end of the year.