Microsoft has released a test version of its Windows Live Mail service, a more interactive alternative to Hotmail.
The beta was sent to testers this week and builds on existing efforts to develop a more powerful alternative to the free e-mail service..
The Windows Live initiative was announced last month as part of Microsoft’s drive to offer more on-demand applications using the web.
The on-demand strategy allows users to install or download less software to run their businesses or personal lives, by using on-line services such as enhanced e-mail, instant messaging or even customer relationship management programmes.
Microsoft is building Windows Live Mail from scratch, while keeping the estimated 215m active Hotmail users on a separate system.
Windows Live is being used to deliver the type of desktop features already possible with Microsoft’s Office productivity suite.
Microsoft is aiming to take on the likes of Google and Yahoo, which have been offering e-mail users enhanced on-line desktop services, without having to download any software.
The Windows Live Mail beta has around a dozen new interactive mail features, such as a spell-checker, quick search facilities, and anti-phishing security management to prevent identity theft.
The beta comes with 2GB of free storage as opposed to the 250MB of free storage with standard Hotmail accounts.
The free product is expected to be launched some time next year. Microsoft is expected to finance its new e-mail offering through advertising.