Microsoft has introduced Office Outlook Live, which brings together Microsoft Office Outlook and MSN Hotmail for users in North America and the UK.
Hotmail users can already complete many desktop tasks using the free Microsoft Outlook Express client that comes with Internet Explorer. But Outlook Express offers a limited set of functions compared to the full Outlook product.
This is the first Microsoft Office product to be made available as a downloadable subscription service.
With an Outlook Live subscription users receive the latest version of Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 for Subscription Services, plus 2GBytes of online storage, the ability to send large 20MBytes attachments, and spam and virus protection - all for an introductory price of £25 a year, until 19 April. The price will then rise to £33 a year.
Chris Capossela, Microsoft corporate vice-president for the information worker product management group, said, "Outlook Live makes it easier than ever for customers to enjoy the benefits of Microsoft Office Outlook to manage their busy lives."
Hotmail users can already pay more to increase their mail storage limits, but Microsoft believes they may want an extensive desktop office client to manage their messages in, as well as using it to synchronise their contacts and diary entries.
Rival internet e-mail, Yahoo, offers 2GBytes of messaging storage for £9.95 a year and is developing its online messaging client with office features aimed at reducing users’ need to have a desktop client like Microsoft Outlook.