Microsoft has begun a limited beta test of its upcoming Windows Live Mail Desktop, BetaNews has learned. The offering is intended to provide users of Windows Live Mail and Hotmail with client-side access to e-mail services. While such a feature was previously only available to paid subscribers, Live Mail Desktop would expand the offering to all users.
"We felt it was important to enable broader email client access to our customers, but also balance these needs with those of running a responsible business," a Microsoft spokesperson said.
The Windows Live Mail Desktop client will be similar to Outlook Express in the way it operates, but it is optimized to integrate Microsoft's Live platform. The application would also provide functionality for users of Windows Live Contacts, Messenger, Spaces, and other such services.
Free customers would be subjected to advertising within the application, however, while subscribers would see no ads in the client. The software is slated to go into a broader beta by summer, with more widespread availability by the end of the year.
"Around 100 beta members will be sent a survey link starting Wednesday, with feedback collected over the next 7 days," the company said. "If this 100-group has a good beta experience, the group will be expanded to around 5000 within the next few weeks."
Windows Mail in Vista will not be replaced before the new operating ships later this year, indicating that Live Mail Desktop will be offered as a free download for users seeking out added functionality.