Microsoft announced on Sunday the global release of Windows Live Hotmail, the long awaited upgrade to the popular MSN Hotmail free web based email service, sporting a new look, several new features and security improvements.

Windows Live Hotmail will deliver a safer, more powerful and productive e-mail experience than previous versions with flexible access via the Web, on a mobile phone or with an e-mail client. Microsoft also announced that later this month Windows Live Hotmail customers will be able to access their Windows Live Hotmail e-mail and contacts for free* using Microsoft® Office Outlook® 2003 or Office Outlook 2007 via the new Microsoft Office Outlook Connector beta.
Among other new features, users now have 2GB of email storage, the interface is similar to Microsoft's desktop-based Outlook e-mail program, including the ability to drag and drop messages into folders, and Windows Live Messenger presence is built into Windows Live Hotmail so customers can see from their inbox if their Messenger contacts are online.

With a user base of more than 280 million active Hotmail accounts, many users won't like a new interface forced upon them. For now, Microsoft will give Hotmail users the option to continue using the old version if they don't want to switch to the upgraded version. However, at some point, everyone will be migrated over to Windows Live Hotmail.