Microsoft has released the first beta version of a client application designed to allow users to access Hotmail or Windows Live Email accounts directly from their desktops.
The Windows Live Mail Desktop Client has been made available to about 100 testers, the company said in blog posting. The group of testers will be further expanded in the coming weeks.
Hotmail accounts are currently accessible only through a browser or by downloading to the desktops of users who pay a fee.
The new application also offers to download email from third-party services that support POP/IMAP access.
The application presents users with banner advertisements when they view their mail folders, but not next to any of the messages.
Charlene Li, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, described the product as a "good advance" in Microsoft's Live.com suite of products.
"It taps into the company's heritage of software but is grounded on the strong web-based Live.com platform," she wrote on a company blog.
Microsoft unveiled its Live software initiative in November, offering a collection of online applications including email, blogging and instant messaging.
The applications will be available to end users free of charge and will feature advertisements.
This long-sought progenitor star was identified in an image captured by Hubble in 2007
Intel's neural network USB stick could bring AI to the masses
Dubbed Barnard's star B, newly discovered planet is believed to be rocky
Also, what's a USB stick?