The domino effect Google started in April by announcing plans for a free e-mail service with 1GB of inbox storage continues, with Microsoft promising on Wednesday to boost Hotmail inbox capacity to 250MB from the current 2MB.
The storage increase for Hotmail will be rolled out starting in July in the U.S. and other countries, says Lisa Gurry, director of Microsoft's MSN Internet division.
"The landscape has changed regarding users' need for extra e-mail storage and we don't want storage to be an issue for any Hotmail user," she says.
Gurry declines to reveal the geographical rollout schedule, but says Microsoft plans to eventually extend the bigger inboxes to all 170 million Hotmail subscribers. Asked if Microsoft is responding to Google's 1GB e-mail service, which is still in a test phase, Gurry declined to discuss Gmail specifically, saying only that Hotmail is responding to customer feedback.
Yahoo last week announced it is boosting the inbox size for its free Web-based e-mail service from 4MB to 100MB.
Other New Features
Another enhancement to the Hotmail service is the capability to send attachments up to 10MB in size, up from a previous e-mail maximum size of 1MB including attachments. Microsoft is also now cleaning viruses in infected outgoing or incoming e-mail messages, Gurry says. Previously, Microsoft scanned all outgoing and incoming Hotmail e-mail messages, but didn't clean them, she says.
All Hotmail users worldwide will receive this feature in July, she adds. Microsoft is providing this antivirus service in partnership with Network Associates' McAfee unit. Microsoft also provides McAfee antivirus tools through its MSN service. As it has done in the past, Microsoft will continue providing antispam features in Hotmail, in partnership with Brightmail, she says.
Microsoft is also readying a new fee-based e-mail service called MSN Hotmail Plus, which will offer users 2GB of inbox storage and the capability to send 20MB attachments, for $19.95 yearly. Previously, Hotmail users could buy extra storage on top of the standard 2MB that the free service features at different price levels. Additional storage started at $19.95 per year for 10MB and a maximum attachment size of 3MB. The highest tier, at $59.95 yearly, offered 100MB of storage and a maximum attachment size of 20MB. Hotmail Plus users also get the benefit of not receiving graphical advertisements.
Yahoo has opted to provide a similar arrangement, by eliminating its tiered extra storage offers for its Web-based e-mail service. Instead, users can choose one fee-based plan of $19.99 yearly which provides 2GB of inbox storage.