Hotmail, Gmail make email easier to manage and access
Web mail users got a shot in the arm recently, as two of the major players updated their services. Google has introduced tools that help you to prioritise your mails, while Microsoft made it easier to synchronise Hotmail to mobile phones.
Google introduced Gmail Priority Inbox, which is a service that automatically bumps those mails most important to you to the top of your inbox. Over the next few days, it will show up as a priority link in the top right of Gmail users' inbox screens. The service (which will also be available to Google Apps users) separates an inbox into three areas: Important, Starred, and Everything Else. It uses rules designed by Google's programmers to help predict which emails are most important to you, based on criteria such as how frequently you exchange mails with an email's sender.
Those important emails will go into the 'Important' section, leaving everything else lumped together. If you see an email that you think is important but that you want to deal with later, then you can tag it with a star (as you can today) and it drops into the new 'starred' section of the inbox.
This should make managing web mail far simpler, although Hotmail has had its own email management features for some time now. Conversely, the Hotmail team just introduced something that Gmail has also had for a while - push email.
The Hotmail push service lets you get email, calendar, and contact information pushed automatically to you phone via Exchange ActiveSync. Pushed information means that you don't have to manually download it to your phone. Instead, it arrives on your phone as soon as it arrives in your inbox, meaning that an important email from your boss will ping you immediately, rather than later on.
At its root, this is simply a case of each rival email service catching up with the other in a particular area. What it means for all webmail users is a generally easier experience looking after an increasingly problematic communications channel.
Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets