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Microsoft updates Live Hotmail and Maps

Updates help you find the closest hotel and send off e-mail to friends and family. They're the latest in a complete overhaul of Microsoft's Web-based services.

On Monday, Microsoft updated two of its Live services: Windows Live Hotmail and Live Maps. Of the two, the changes to Hotmail are not yet available to everyone. The company began rolling it out to some of its users this weekend, with everyone else getting their hands on it in the next few weeks. It's the newer, faster version of the service that brings in gains of up to 70 percent compared with older versions of Hotmail. (Read more about that here.)

Meanwhile, Live Search Maps, Microsoft's online mapping tool has a really neat new way to get directions using local landmarks and local businesses. If the service picks up on one of these landmarks as part of your route, it will use it in addition to the street name. Oftentimes this comes in handy where a business has better signage than the city, which in the case of car dealerships and fast food restaurants is almost always true.

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Chris Pendleton, Microsoft Virtual Earth's Tech Evangelist, says these landmarks are currently limited to these six categories:

  • Gas Stations
  • Major National Chains of Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Convenience Stores
  • Grocery Stores
  • Car Dealerships

To help get you there, there's a new multistop trip planner--a feature Google Maps has had since late 2006. This means you can add other addresses between the point A and point B of your trip, then print it out to stick in your car.

The service is also now instantly indexing community maps. Maps that users have created will now be able to be searched by everyone immediately. The user-created items will also be mixed in with business results, which means you or someone else could enter in a business' address and phone number before it's been officially added and have it show up in regular searches. Neat.