Microsoft: save $44 billion, just make Hotmail free

I took a look at MSN – oops, Windows Live -- yesterday, something I try to do every year or so (which puts me ahead of most people, apparently). What I saw reminded me why spending $44 billion on Yahoo! isn't going to make Microsoft competitive with Google. I love Google's Gmail. It's free, and […]

I took a look at MSN – oops, Windows Live -- yesterday, something I try to do every year or so (which puts me ahead of most people, apparently). What I saw reminded me why spending $44 billion on Yahoo! isn't going to make Microsoft competitive with Google.

I love Google's Gmail. It's free, and it lets me do all kinds of fancy things. I especially like the ability to collect mail from other POP3 accounts in Gmail, where I can see threaded discussions, search and categorize messages, and get to it from anywhere I can use a Web browser. (And Gmail is just one of the Google Web services I use regularly. I like the calendar, and the Picasa photo gallery, and the RSS reader particularly.)

I used to have a Hotmail account, back before Microsoft bought it a decade ago. It was a dazzling innovation: free, permanent e-mail. Then Microsoft bought it and I had a choice: I could have free, or I could have permanent. I quit using it.

Yesterday I signed up for Hotmail again. Going in, I was offered a chance to sign up for Windows Live instead. All I had to do was ". . . Click 'Install' to get this free software . . . ."

Whoa. Install software? No thank you very much. Why should I have to do that to use things that should be Web-based services, like a calendar and photo gallery? (And install a toolbar? Read my lips: Nononononono. In my opinion toolbars aren't merely visual junk, they're spyware. All of them. I don't care where they come from.)

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Microsoft, Hotmail, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Hotrmail, Google, Gmail, Yahoo!, Yahoo Mail