From posts by the Kahuna team (see below) and various beta testers (and others watching the space), it looks like it as as signifcant an enhancement to Hotmail as Start is to the old MSN portal. It appears that they will be launching the service under the URL mail.start.com.
Key features include liberal use of ajax to eliminate screen refreshes, an â€œoutlookï¿½? approach to allow reading of emails without leaving the inbox, and a generally faster and cleaner user interface.
Details of the recent history of Kahuna can be found here.
From Imran Qureshi, Kahuna team member:
Top 5 reasons I love the mail betaâ€¦ reasons 1 and 2
Mail beta is a brand new web mail experience focused on being faster, simpler and safer than existing web mail services (read more). The team focused on the basics of reading and sending mail. Mail beta is a work-in-progress and a large number of beta users are driving what it becomes (we can barely keep up with all their ideasâ€¦)
Hereâ€™s the first of some of my favorite things about reading mails in mail beta:
1. Fast, faster and faster still Mail beta is significantly faster, I mean by an order of magnitude:
a) The UI responds instantly to many actions and quickly to others
b) Very few context switches (where the whole page changes and your eyes have to rescan)
c) You need fewer clicks to do the everyday tasks
d) Cleaner look (including more â€œwhite spaceï¿½?) so your eyes can relax and find stuff faster
2. Read mail without leaving your inbox using the Reading pane
The Reading pane allows you to read your mail without leaving your inbox. If you like the reading pane in Outlook now you have it in web mail. Other web mail services forces you to open each message and close it before reading the next message. If you have 10 messages to read, they will require 20 clicks, Kahuna: 10. (Howâ€™s that for your carpal tunnel?)
Want to see a wide email? Just double click the message and voila!
Weâ€™re looking forward to testing this out ourselves.