Windows Live Mail Desktop beta goes public

As promised earlier this year, Microsoft has made a public beta available of the new look Windows Live Mail Desktop (WMLD). This is earmarked to replace the Outlook Express mail client currently bundled with Windows XP.

Microsoft has enabled direct sign-up for US and UK customers with Free Hotmail accounts. Previously, joining the beta club was by invitation only. The software is now accessible through the ideas.live.com test site.

Along with the basic mail client, Live Mail Desktop offers a calendaring function and an address book. Live Messenger contacts are imported directly into the address book. Microsoft says that the mail client will also work with any POP or IMAP email account and there is additional support for multiple inboxes.

WMLD will double as an RSS reader with the ability to read and forward RSS feeds within the standard client window and also includes a Blog It feature to allow one click posting to your blog, which can be published with just another click.

There are also anti-spam and anti-phishing features built in to protect privacy.

Following Google’s lead, Microsoft also has plans to turn Live Mail Desktop into a profit centre by showing ads based on keywords appearing in the email.

The initial version looks very much an unfinished product. While most features seem to work, the user interface could use some work in terms of highlighting what is important and making the content more centre stage. At the moment, there is little to suggest contextual ads, with just generic banners running across the top of the page.

During the test period, Microsoft will be supporting Windows Live Mail via an email form and along with a blog to feed back any problems.

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