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Microsoft Beta Tests Outlook Express Replacement

Microsoft opened Windows Live Mail Center to public beta testing on Tuesday, providing the first wide-scale look at the ad-supported e-mail client that eventually will replace Outlook Express.

Formerly dubbed Windows Live Mail Desktop, the client's code is based on Windows Mail, the e-mail application that will be bundled with Windows Vista when that OS ships in early 2007. Outlook Express served the same purpose in earlier operating systems, including the current Windows XP.

The client lets users access Microsoft's Web-based e-mail service (Hotmail, now called Windows Live Mail), standard POP3 accounts, and other Web e-mail, like Google's Gmail, within one interface. It also displays RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds and newsgroup threads and messages.

Users must register with the beta test in order to use Live Mail Center, which can be downloaded from this Microsoft site.