Usually, the folks at Microsoft tend to see themselves as the center of the computing universe, looking askance at anyone not sharing that opinion.

Today, Microsoft is showing that for once, it gets the idea that people have lives, and e-mail addresses, outside the scope of Hotmail (or, if you prefer, Live Mail).

The offer they are making would seem to be a nudge to start the path to moving to Hotmail permanently, but since the move is open and honest, no one should suspect anything untoward about it.

[PC Magazine]

Microsoft is rolling out a feature that lets non-Hotmail users continue to use their existing e-mail while also taking advantage of Hotmail features like Sweep, or the ability to send 10GB worth of photos at once.

“Today we begin rolling out a feature that makes it easy to use Hotmail with any existing e-mail address,” wrote Dick Craddock, Group Program Manager at Windows Live Hotmail, in a blog post.

“You already have at least one e-mail address and you probably don’t need another. You may also use your existing address for things other than just e-mail, such as signing in to online shopping sites, which makes changing even more challenging” he wrote. “Also, you might have an address that you really like, but a similar name might not be available on another e-mail service.”

To start, you’ll need a Windows Live ID, for which you can register using any existing e-mail address. Afterwards, you can import your non-Hotmail data onto Hotmail via POP.

Why would Microsoft do all this? Perhaps to influence more people to use Hotmail as their main webmail provider rather than a storage facility for spam. “We looked for a way to make it easier for people to give Hotmail a trial run,” Craddock hinted in the same entry.

In May, Microsoft began releasing a Hotmail update for its 360 million users worldwide. Meanwhile, there are 500 million Windows Live users through other Live properties such as Xbox, Zune, SkyDrive, or Messenger, many of whom use alternate webmail providers.

The new Hotmail interface is very nice, and again, shows that Microsoft’s customer base will expand when they don’t make certain assumptions, such as that each and every user will be using Internet Exploder to access their sites.

The new Hotmail works well with Opera or Iron, which is something it never used to do, and that is a very good thing from my perspective. Again, not assuming that everyone blindly follows the will of Redmond is a very good start to expansion of Microsoft’s well known and now more widely used, mail service.

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