We’ll say it right off the bat: what the hell took Microsoft so long? Years after Yahoo and Google integrated web IM features into their free webmail services (Yahoo Messenger in Yahoo Mail and Gtalk in Gmail, respectively), Redmond is finally enabling users to log into their Hotmail accounts and converse with their contacts over instant messaging directly without the need to log on to Windows Live Messenger separately, or to even have the program installed altogether.
The new feature will be gradually rolled out, starting from today enabling subsets of users in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and USA to send instant messages from the Windows Live Hotmail and People pages. The feature earlier rolled out to some users users in France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, and the UK.
I’ve said this before: easily dismissed by geeks and savvy web users, Hotmail has a gigantic mainstream userbase who are not likely going to switch to an alternative webmail service en masse provided Microsoft keeps up with the times and lets Hotmail evolve the way its users are increasingly demanding it to.
But make no mistake about it: Microsoft is ridicously late with adding this functionality to Hotmail.