This is not a post I ever expected to write. This is the kind of thing you're not supposed to admit in public, at least not if you want to be taken seriously by the cool kids. Fortunately, I'm at the point where I'm too bloody old to care what the cool kids think.
I'm switching my primary email from Gmail to Hotmail. I've been using it for a few weeks now on a trial basis, and I like it. A lot.
I know what you're thinking. If you're a serious tech-head, you're probably thinking something along the lines of "Good Lord man, have you lost your mind?" The answer is no, I haven't, but I understand where you're coming from. If you're anything like me, you had a Hotmail account back in the 1990s, and were driven away from it by the sheer relentless mediocrity of the experience. Microscopic storage limits, banner ads, and irritating taglines appended to all of your emails. I lived through it too…back then, we saw things that would make the kids today wet their pants. If you're under 18, you've probably always had Gmail, and you…have…no…idea. Trust me.
But you know what? A funny thing happened. Microsoft woke up and started smelling the coffee. Apple started eating their lunch in mobile and tablets, Google is going after their bread and butter by marketing Google Docs (now Google Drive) to business, and Microsoft is starting to get hungry. So…email storage is now measured in gigabytes, and you can get more if you need it. Banner ads are gone, and $20/year gets you Windows Live Hotmail Plus, with no ads at all. And those irritating "Get Hotmail!" messages in the signature line? They're history. And best of all, you no longer have to have an "@hotmail.com" address. You can pick "@live.com" instead, or, as with Google, you can bring your own domain to the party and use that. Sweet.
And what's left for you to use with that domain is a really nice, functional and smooth webmail experience, one that I wouldn't have found out about if it wasn't for my irritation--and perhaps more to the point, my wife's irritation--with the changes that Google's been making to Gmail. Mind you, I've been a Gmail user since the days of the invitation-only beta, and I've sung its praises for years. But lately, it's seemed like the UI boffins have been too clever by half with their AJAX-y mouseover magic. Memo to the design team: it shouldn't move unless I click on it. Make it so.
The most surprising aspect to all of this is that I'm the one switching. I ran away screaming from Microsoft products ten years ago, fleeing to the world of Apple (and later Google), and I've never regretted the choice. But if Microsoft ain't what it used to be, neither is Apple or Google. Apple has become enraptured with its own aluminum-skinned coolness, becoming to phones and tablets what Microsoft was to computers fifteen years ago: dominant, a bit arrogant, and successful to the point of being dangerous. Google is similarly entrenched in search, is rapidly becoming a force in mobile with Android, and would really, really like me to tie everything into their pseudo-Facebook social network, Google+ (they asked me again when I signed into Blogger to write this post). Thanks, but no thanks.
So Hotmail it is. This is not your father's Hotmail. This is good. It works. It's nice. No, it doesn't tie into anything like Google Voice or Google Reader, but it does come with built-in support for Messenger and SkyDrive, and the calendar works well with iOS. When Windows 8 come out, it will work as a Windows Live ID for device sign-in and other assorted goodness.
And if you just want to send and receive some email, it's a damn fine choice for that too.