Trying to regain some of the users and street cred it had a decade ago, Hotmail's updated its offering on several fronts this week. Not only has it refreshed the web interface, but Microsoft has finally released an Android app and native support for the iOS mail application. I've had a chance to test some of what's new, and it's definitely a step in the right direction.
The Web app sports new tools to make managing email easier. "Instant Actions" lets you quickly delete or move an message; "Flagging" lets you pin a message to the top of your inbox; and "Sweeping" lets you batch delete items from a certain sender or folder. All are useful, but the overall UI could still use a serious overhaul.
On the all-important mobile side of things, the new Android app mimics Gmail's integration by syncing Hotmail contacts and calendars to your phone, and does a nice job handling multiple accounts. It's easy to break out individual accounts or see a universal inbox. Otherwise, it's a very basic experience, which may be exactly what Microsoft is going for.
iOS integration is a long time coming, and finally in iOS 5 the Mail app will offer Hotmail as a configuration option when you're adding an email account. You could configure it manually before, but it's easier now.
All in all, Hotmail's made some key changes that help with the overall simplicity of the service. But while they will likely help keep its 350 million users from leaving for greener (or Gmail!) pastures, they're not quite enough to make it the cool email service it was ten years ago.