I've just learned a new term: greymail. It's the stuff that's somewhere between spam and email you actually want to read. Facebook updates; Twitter follow or retweet notifications; Basecamp messages; Groupon deals. It's all stuff you might want at some point, but probably not right now and not for long.
Hotmail, which I've not used since about 2008 has some new features which an ad just alerted me to. I clicked the ad thinking it was a slight against Google's redesign, but instead ended up learning about how Hotmail lets you sweep, tidy up and "automate your inbox".
Since, I think late 2008 I've used the third-rate email services provided by Apple, because they integrate really well with my gear and give me a nice short email address. But they're third rate because of all the services they lack: proper spam filtering, rules that sync between computers or devices, or even a sense that it's more than an afterthought.
Gmail's constantly updating, if not its interface then its product line, and Microsoft are pluckily keeping up, but in comparison, Apple's bare-bones IMAP-based email just feels a little lacklustre. I'm glad I no longer pay for it.
The problem I have with email providers like Gmail and Hotmail is that I like proper software. Y'know, stuff that is actually part of your computer, not simply another tab on a browser. I want to switch between icons, minimise, launch quickly, multitask. This is what comes of starting off my career as a desktop software developer I think. I like apps that live in my computer, not subletting in a browser. But the problem there is that we get into all kinds of technical beef which I've no desire to go into now, about IMAP and CalDEV or whatever other bobbins is floating round making my inbox work.
I just thought I'd mention that, while us net hipsters are using cool products by cool developers who make things in shiny white and matt black, Microsoft are still trying to make email better. Good on 'em.