Sources at Microsoft Corporation informed me this weekend that the much-anticipated support for Hotmail email in Outlook 2000 has been shelved and will not be included with the Office 2000 Service Release 1 (SR-1) CD-ROM as previously planned. Though the product might eventually see the light of day as a downloadable add-on from the Office Update Web site, such as release is not currently planned.
A beta version of the Hotmail add-on for Outlook 2000 was provided to Office 2000 SR-1 testers in a CD-ROM based distribution that was sent out earlier this year. However, the add-on was quietly scuttled shortly thereafter and no newer builds have since appeared. Microsoft has provided Hotmail support with its free Outlook Express product since the release of Internet Explorer 5.0 last year. With the release of OE 5.01, which is also included in Windows 2000, Hotmail users have to contend with an annoying advertisement panel. It was hoped that full Outlook 2000 support would remove this visual distraction; the Hotmail add-on for Outlook 2000 didn't display an advertising panel.
With it's recent reemphasis on Office 2000, it's hard to believe that Microsoft will continue to deny its paying customers access to the most popular email system on the planet. I'll continue looking into this, but I suspect we'll see Hotmail support for Outlook long before Office 10 ships next year