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(Best Syndication) Although more people use Microsoft Hotmail than Google gMail, their new Windows Live Hotmail still lacks some functionality. Many industry watchers say it is about time that Microsoft upgrad their free email service, especially with stiff competition from Google and Yahoo!.

Hotmail now offers 2 GB of storage for free, coming closer to Google’s 2.6 GB. This is a significant upgrade for Microsoft because they had been offering only 1 GB of storage. Although Yahoo limits their free service to 1 GB of disk space, they are expected to offer unlimited space this month. Their email service is free as well, but may not work perfectly with all browsers including Firefox.

The competition is fierce between the three rivals. Yahoo still charges $20 per year for POP3 service which allows users to access their email clients including Outlook and Eudora. Google offers that service for free, and Microsoft is expected to offer POP3 service later on for Outlook only.

Free POP3 Service and mail forwarding is the biggest advantage for Google, and one reason they have become so popular. With the Yahoo and Hotmail free service you have to use your browser to access your email. With Google, you can use your browser or your email client to access all of your email accounts at once, free of charge. Offering these POP3 servers is a huge expense for Google, but it is a big advantage for their users.

All three services use spam blockers and virus protection. Google gives users a total of nine months of dormancy before an account is deactivated. This means that if you don’t use your account for nine months it will be declared dormant and then finally deactivated. Yahoo and Microsoft give their users less time before their accounts are deactivated.

Google has also integrated their Google Talk and instant messaging service into gMail. Google Talk enables users to make free voice calls through the computer.

Sometimes it is better to go second, and in this, it was an advantage for Google to learn from Yahoo’s and Microsoft’s mistakes. They developed gMail with POP access and other capabilities from the ground up. Yahoo and Microsoft had to work with their older technologies to provide users with upgrades.

Google has also unveiled a new and improved iGoogle personalized home page for their users. The free iGoogle is similar to Yahoo’s personalized homepage, but with new and improved gadgets. With your new personalized homepage you can preview your email letters with one of the free gadgets. The iGoogle has various fun themes that change throughout the day depending on what time it is. There is nothing to download and it operates like any homepage, except it is customizable. No wonder Microsoft is feverishly working on upgrades to their existing services.